Yemeni child soldiers
Yemen is a young country struggling through many internal problems. A civil war began in 2015 between the Yemeni government, with backing from Saudi Arabia, and the Houthi rebels. Now, it has become a conflict involving international leaders and is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the last 100 years. This is partly due to the mass exploitation of Yemeni child soldiers. It is very difficult to discover the exact number of recruited children due to the fluid roles of children, associated with family shame and fear. However, numbers ranged from about 3,000 to 50,000 children as of 2019.

Growing Up

Many Yemeni child soldiers have faced unfathomable hardships even before fighting. They have been constantly fleeing their homes to avoid airstrikes and war zones. Because of this, 3.4 million children are out of school and many are trying to earn the little money they can like Salah, who is about 11, and whose family cannot afford meals every day. Starvation and disease-ridden camps have been the way of life for thousands of families since the war began five years ago.

Conversely, schools recruit children in regions with access to education through “indoctrination” from lectures. The Houthi movement’s founder gives these lectures and transcribes them into booklets known as “Malazem.” During this, children as young as 10 view graphic images of the war and others who have died for the cause. This encourages them to do the same. A mother told the Group of Experts, a partition of the U.N. Human Rights Council, that she fears for her son’s future. She also said that such practices are prevalent across the region.

Recruitment also occurs in surrounding countries like Sudan, a country also struggling from domestic conflicts. Approached at 14, Hager Shomo Ahmed had received an offer of $10,000 in exchange for his service in the war. Like many children, this was dire for his family, as they became penniless after others stole their cattle.

Persuaded and desperate for food, purpose and money, thousands of children like these entered the war.

During the War

From both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, many Yemeni child soldiers went to the front lines. More than 1,000 have been coerced to fight.

Some dragged bodies from the field (sometimes even their own family), others would do kitchen services and others trained to use rifles. Naji, Younis and Saleh, Yemeni child soldiers who were around 11 and 13 at the time, recounted stories like these. A Saudi rehabilitation center that has helped about 400 boys has created a safe space for these stories.

A psychiatrist at a Marib rehabilitation center, Mayoub al-Makhlafi, says children have suffered as fighters and servants. Staffers recount children’s descriptions of experiencing beatings and sexual abuse from their own commanders.

Many, promised with money and non-combatant roles, find themselves in traffickers’ hands and training camps. Some are sent to patrol checkpoints 12 hours a day. Others are the first to be dispatched as human bodyguards. The young foot soldiers have no other option since they are lured with knowledge of a steady income sent home or depicted as martyrs.

The war has killed over 2,000 Yemeni child soldiers, as UNICEF reported in 2018. However, due to poor access to Yemen and limited data collection, these numbers are could be much higher.

Surviving After

Younis and his mother, Samira, shared the nightmares he used to have about the Houthis taking him again and how his mother would comfort him back to sleep.

In Dhamar, Yemen, a teacher places a photograph on desks of 14 former students during the Week of the Martyr, a celebration that the Houthi government enforces to continue its propaganda about the honor of fighting. The children, mostly fifth and sixth graders, mourn their friends. Those who do not die find themselves in displacement camps, like 14-year-old Morsal. Like many of his comrades, Morsal suffers from panic attacks, aggressive behavior and hearing loss from airstrikes and explosions.

Fifteen-year-old Mohammad’s father, Ali Hameed, details a time before the war and how his son had started working after graduating high school. He sadly continued to when his son left to join the Saudi coalition and then went missing. Some of the boys from Mohammad’s unit were able to flee and return home and the Houthis captured others. Mohammad was not part of either group.

Others like Hager, who had lost 180 men in his unit, were able to return home. By earning some money for his service, he was able to buy his family 10 cattle to restore their livelihood.

Relief Efforts

Coping with such traumatic events is extremely difficult for adults. However, the horrors are greater for children. Fortunately, The Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation developed eight rehabilitation centers across Yemen. As of 2019, it has helped 2,000 Yemeni child soldiers in psychological support and children’s rights education.

Internationally, the Child Protection and Children Friendly Spaces programs, initiatives of UNICEF, have given over 600,000 children psychosocial support through individual counseling, reading, cooperative games and family reunification, as of 2018 in Yemen.

Victim assistance is another crucial sector for children who have lost limbs. Such assistance is possible through Prosthesis and Rehabilitation centers in Yemen for children with disabilities as a result of the war. These centers receive support from the International Committee of the Red Cross. In just 2019, they have been able to provide over 1.1 million Yemenis emergency care in 18 hospitals that the IRC supports, and given food, essential home supplies, cash grants and access to clean water to 5.7 million Yemenis.

Broadly focused groups like War Child, working in North and South Yemen, have offered assistance to more than 30,000 children and families. War Child provides psychosocial support through coping mechanisms for trauma, recreational activities and legal support to enable school enrollment. Through school restoration and cash assistance to families, it is able to provide better futures for children.

Supporting these groups and others, vital for long-term recovery, is essential to nurturing the Yemeni child soldiers who have fallen victim to this waging war and the millions of civilians in the entire region suffering from starvation, displacement and great loss.

– Mizla Shrestha
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in SyriaSyria has been a center of conflict for years, and with so much unrest, poverty in Syria is an unfortunate given. War has torn the country apart and citizens are paying the price. The percentage of Syrians living in poverty sits at an astounding 80%. The war in Syria has destroyed much of its wealth, infrastructure and workforce. From the beginning of the conflict in 2011 to 2014, the unemployment rate rose by 42.8%, leaving as many as three million Syrians jobless.

It is unsurprising then, that with poverty this severe, many citizens are attempting to escape. After four years of war in Syria, the country’s population has declined by 15%. Syria is second only to Palestine when it comes to emigrating refugees, with as many as 6.8 million fleeing the country. More than three million Syrians have fled to Turkey as it shares a border with Syria. However, there are organizations and foreign governments working to remedy this issue and aid these citizens in their escape from violence and poverty in Syria, including Paper Airplanes.

Humanitarian Aid

Paper Airplanes is a non-governmental organization (NGO)  that teaches refugees English and other skills to help them thrive in places where they have relocated. While poverty in Syria has caused many to become refugees, Paper Airplanes has risen to the challenge of educating these people in order to give them a chance at a better life. Bailey Ulbricht founded Paper Airplanes in 2014 after tutoring some students she met in Syria. Ulbricht then got some people to volunteer and the organization has grown since then with the goal of giving refugees the opportunity to continue their education.

So far, Paper Airplanes has been able to work with 2,411 students. More than three-fourths of the students finish a minimum of one semester. The organization offers several different programs to increase its students’ likelihood of getting a better job and of being able to pursue more advanced education. Refugees from Syria can choose to participate in one or many of its programs. Programs include:

  • English Program – English speakers tutor a refugee in the English language over the internet

  • Women in Tech – women are taught coding

  • Citizen Journalism – students are taught how to write strong articles and have them published

  • Turkish – Since many Syrians often find safe haven in Turkey, students can enroll in this program to help them adjust to their new environment

  • Youth Exchange – similar to the English Program, but with high school English tutors

  • Student Advising – volunteers help students with things like their resumes or scholarship applications

Tutoring with Paper Airplanes

This author had the opportunity to partner with Paper Planes for one month in July, working a few hours a week with a student. The student’s willingness to learn was inspiring. The orientation process thoroughly prepares the tutor for tutoring a refugee over Skype and the staff is extremely helpful and supportive. Tutoring a student in English when one has little to no experience can be daunting, but the staff at Paper Airplanes makes people feel very prepared while also allowing them to tailor the semester’s curriculum to the students’ needs.

It is inspiring to see people taking initiative and truly enjoying helping people to better their lives and the lives of their families. While hearing about how so many people go hungry and are affected by poverty, hearing what is solving those tragedies and healing people gives people hope for the future and makes them not only want to be a part of it but to bring it about. Hope truly does inspire people greater than sorrow and fear.

Looking Forward

The extreme poverty in Syria along with the crisis has caused many of its citizens to flee and seek shelter elsewhere. Amid all of the horrors, cultural shock and trauma, some individuals and organizations answered their cry for help. Paper Airplanes gives refugees the tools that they need to succeed, educating and therefore empowering them for their future. Paper Airplanes understands that when you educate refugees, the impact goes far beyond individual students. It sets up the next generation to succeed.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Politics and War
The Borgen Project has published this article and podcast episode, “Recognizing the Role of Hunger in Politics and War,” with permission from The World Food Program (WFP) USA. “Hacking Hunger” is the organization’s podcast that features stories of people around the world who are struggling with hunger and thought-provoking conversations with humanitarians who are working to solve it.

 

Two years ago, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2417. The resolution made clear that conflict-induced hunger is a peace and security issue.

But two years later, too little has changed. Around the world millions of people are still trapped in the man-made cycle of conflict, displacement, and hunger. Starvation has been defined as ‘the cheapest weapon of mass destruction available to armies’ — cheap and easy to kick off.

It’s important to reflect on the significance of the resolution and discuss the impact that novel coronavirus pandemic might have on peace and security globally. One place where the link between conflict and hunger is painfully obvious is South Sudan.

Since December 2013, a civil war has been tearing the country apart, causing widespread destruction, death and displacement. Around 1.47 million people are internally displaced and another 2.2 million are refugees in neighboring countries. A collapsing economy, reduced crop production and dependence on imports seriously undermine people’s ability to secure sufficient nutritious food all year round, putting millions of lives at risk.

Matthew Hollingworth is the United Nations World Food Programme’s country director in South Sudan. He has worked to relieve hunger in several countries at war. On this episode of Hacking Hunger, asked about his perspective on Resolution 2417, and what he has witnessed from the field.

Interested in learning more? Visit World Food Programme Insight, where Simona Beltrami asks three experts to discuss the significance of UN Security Council resolution 2417 and cast a look at hunger, peace and security in the post-COVID world.

Click the link below to listen to Matthew Hollingworth talk about Resolution 2417 and his experiences working to relieve hunger in war-torn areas.

 

 

Photo: Flickr

Women in the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis
The Borgen Project has published this article and podcast episode, “Inside the Lives of Women Living Through World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis,” with permission from The World Food Program (WFP) USA. “Hacking Hunger” is the organization’s podcast that features stories of people around the world who are struggling with hunger and thought-provoking conversations with humanitarians who are working to solve it.

 

Hunger is cruel to everyone, but it’s not completely blind. Women – especially in times of war – are more at risk of the suffering it bestows. Women are 60 percent more likely to suffer from hunger and its consequences. They eat last and least and are often forced to drop out of school or marry early when there isn’t enough food.

Yemen is no exception to this rule, and as the nation’s conflict drags into its fifth year, women find themselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. But women are resilient, and despite their suffering, they find ways to remain hopeful and strong.

In this episode of Hacking Hunger, we spoke with Annabel Symington, head of communications for WFP in Yemen. She’s been working in Yemen for the past year and offered us insights into the unique challenges, stories and strength of women living through this war.

Click below to listen to Annabel Symington provide stories about women in Yemen during the present war.

 

 

Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty in Syria
With a population of 18.4 million people, Syria ranked as a rapidly developing mid-sized country before the Syrian civil war broke out. Today, 11.7 million Syrian people have experienced displacement from their homes. Schools, health care facilities and small businesses have suffered greatly. As a result, the Syrian economy has collapsed, placing more than half of Syrian people in poverty. Children are at an especially high risk of poverty and displacement. The war has a stranglehold on the Syrian economy. It has caused significant damage to the country’s infrastructure and wreaked havoc on the lives of civilians. However, global aid has significantly improved Syrian peoples’ educational and employment opportunities, as well as access to food, water, shelter and health care. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Syria.

10 Facts About Poverty in Syria

  1. Before the Syrian civil war, the Syrian economy was flourishing. In 2010, right before the start of the Syrian civil war, the World Bank listed Syria as a rapidly-growing middle-income country. In addition, farming, oil, industry and tourism formed the major economic base. Meanwhile, primary and secondary education and health care received state funding. Until 2011, nearly 80 percent of the Syrian economy relied upon small to medium-sized businesses. In 2010, the GDP per capita in Syria was $2,807. Today, the GDP per capita is a mere $870.
  2. Today, the majority of Syrian people live in poverty. Over 80 percent of people in Syria live below the world poverty line, which means that they make less than $1 per day. The economic impact of ongoing conflict has resulted in an unemployment rate of 55 percent or more.
  3. Corruption is prevalent in Syria. Syria ranks fourth on the list of countries with the most corruption in the world. High paying jobs concentrate in Damascus, the country’s capital. It is hard to get a job in the capital without “wasta.” “Wasta” is an Arabic word that translates to “nepotism” or “clout.”
  4. The Syrian civil war interferes with education. The U.N. confirmed 74 strikes on schools and military use of 24 schools from January to June 2019. As a result, fighting has damaged many schools or bombs have demolished them. More than 33 percent of Syria’s children – over 2 million – do not go to school. Around 1.3 million children are at a high chance of withdrawing from school. UNICEF is working to provide education to Syrian children. The organization repairs damaged school buildings, provides at-home learning programs to students in districts where there are no schools and administers teacher-training programs.
  5. The Syrian civil war has impeded health care. Bombing damaged or destroyed many medical facilities. In northwest Syria, 51 medical facilities suffered attacks between January and June 2019. Fifty percent of all health care centers in Syria are only partly operational or are not operating at all. In light of this, many foundations are working in Syria to provide health care. For example, Doctors Without Borders is currently working in Syria, providing outpatient care, assisting with births and administering routine vaccinations.
  6. There is extreme wealth inequality in Syria. Before 2011, Syrian small businesses thrived. However, many shut down in the past decade. A few big business owners have established a monopoly over approximately 75 percent of the economy, though the average Syrian person lives in poverty
  7. Inflation has greatly affected the Syrian population. Syrian currency has depreciated greatly in recent years. The value of the Syrian pound has gone down over 90 percent since 2010. Prices have greatly increased, but salaries have stagnated and jobs are much harder to come by.
  8. Women and children suffer the damages of war. Children must often engage in child labor or marriage, or join the fighting to help their families survive. Additionally, over 60 percent of Syrian refugees are children. Syrian women are at high risk of enduring sexual violence.
  9. Many Syrians flee the country. There are 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, a neighboring country. In Lebanon, around 70 percent of Syrian people live below the poverty line. In Jordan, around 93 percent of Syrian refugees live below the poverty line. Living conditions for Syrian refugees are difficult, but perhaps preferable to the crisis of living in the midst of a civil war.
  10. Foreign aid is helping Syrian citizens. International relief organizations like the IRC, UNICEF and Worldvision provide significant aid to Syria. Currently, the IRC provides support to nearly 1 million people—half of them children. Support includes pop-up health clinics, cash vouchers to obtain food and necessities, child care, job training and psychosocial support for traumatized people. This is often for survivors of violence or sexual assault.

These 10 facts about poverty in Syria show that the current situation in Syria is bleak, as poverty and displacement affect nearly the entire population. However, foreign policy and intervention can help end the war. Additionally, foreign aid can support education, health care and small businesses. Ideally, Syria will stabilize in the years to come.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

10-Facts-About-Sanitation-in-Yemen
Yemen is currently going through a severe civil war. The Yemeni government’s failed political transition has led to multiple uprising since 2015. As the conflict enters its fifth year in 2020, the effects are becoming clearer. At the end of 2018, over 6,800 civilians had been killed. An additional 10,768 people were wounded and the conflict also had a significant impact on Yemen’s infrastructure. Sanitation is one aspect of Yemen’s infrastructure that has been affected the most by the ongoing conflict. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Yemen

  1. Water is a scarce resource in Yemen. Before the current civil war began in 2015, experts already warned that Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, might run out of water in 10 years. In a BBC report, they noted that this water problem is exasperated by farmers drilling underground wells without any government regulations.
  2. In 2018, an estimated 19.3 million people did not have access to clean water and sanitation. Years of aerial bombing and ground fighting destroyed Yemen’s water facilities. The power plants that supplied electricity to power water pumps and purification plants were also destroyed. This has put the quality of water and access to water in jeopardy.
  3. People in Yemen depend on private water suppliers for their water, as a result of the destruction of public water infrastructure. An estimated 56 percent of residents in the city of Sana’a and 57 percent in the city of Aden depend upon these private water distributors.
  4. This reliance on private water distribution contributes to high water prices. Private water distributors set their water prices based on the prevailing market price and the distance traveled to deliver their water. Since many of the wells close to populations are drying up, the distance these distributors need to travel is increasing. In the city of Sana’a, on average, people are paying 3.8 times more for water than if they had access to the public water supply network
  5. The weaponization of water use as a siege tactic in Yemen. The Saudi-UAE coalition and the Houthi rebels use water as a way to carry out strategic military operations. In 2016, Saudi forces carried out a strategic bombing of a reservoir that served as a source of drinking water for thirty thousand people.
  6. Access to improved latrines decreased from 71 percent in 2006 to 48 percent in 2018. Unsurprisingly, places that prioritized the rampant famine and cholera outbreak had the lowest rates of access to improved latrines. Furthermore, the majority of female respondents reported that their access to the latrines was particularly challenging because the majority of the latrines are not gender-segregated.
  7. Water in Yemen is often not sanitary. This is a result of the direct impact the civil war has on the sanitation in Yemen. Cholera remains the most significant threat to water quality, with Yemen still recovering from the cholera outbreak of 2017. As of November 2019, there were 11,531 suspected cases of cholera in Yemen.
  8. Destruction of wastewater treatment plants is contributing to poor sanitation in Yemen. Without facilities to treat wastewater, raw sewage is usually diverted to poor neighborhoods and agricultural lands. This leads to further contamination of local water wells and groundwater sources.
  9. UNICEF undertakes many restoration efforts for water treatment facilities in Yemen. For example, UNICEF restored a water treatment plant named Al Barzakh. This plant is one of the 10 water treatment centers that supplied water to Aden, Lahij and Abyan governorates. This $395,000 restoration project had a major impact. Cholera cases in the region dropped from 15,020 cholera cases in August 2017 to 164 cases in January 2018.
  10. The World Bank Group’s International Development Association is working on a 50 million-dollar project to provide electricity in Yemen. The project aims to provide solar-powered electricity to rural and peri-urban communities in Yemen. In addition to supplying powers to Yemeni schools, the project will improve sanitation in Yemen by providing power to water sanitation facilities. This is especially important for girls’ education in Yemen since the burden of water collection usually falls upon girls, often deterring girls from going to school.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen highlight continuing problems as well as several efforts to address them. Water was already a scarce resource in Yemen even before the current conflict started in 2015. As the Yemeni civil war enters its fifth year, the effects of the deteriorating sanitation in Yemen are more than clear. However, efforts by groups such as UNICEF and the World Bank are working to fund, build and restore many sanitation facilities in Yemen. With the recent indirect peace talk between the combatants, many hope that conditions in Yemen will improve in the future.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

History of Poverty in South Korea
While K-Pop and Korean culture has appeared in mainstream media, the looming presence of poverty in South Korea has not. According to the World Bank’s 2018 GDP rankings, the Republic of Korea stands as the world’s 12th largest economy, making it understandable that poverty in South Korea is not making global headlines. For the people of South Korea, a country roughly the size of the state of Illinois, this economic achievement is a massive source of national pride. As the “miracle of the Han River,” South Korea’s economic transformation from 1961 to 1997 strengthened the narrative of South Korea as an Asian economic powerhouse. Here is some information about the history of poverty in South Korea.

History of the Korean Economy

Poverty in South Korea has always held a place in history. Korea received liberation from the Japanese empire’s 35-year colonial rule in 1945. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the Korean economy was largely agrarian. By the time the War concluded in 1953, an estimated 5 million people died. Among the 5 million dead, half of the casualties were civilians and the nation’s economy suffered equal devastation. By the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953, the GDP of South Korea was only $40.9 million. In comparison, South Korea’s GDP in 2015 was $1,485 trillion.

Economic Growth Igniting in the 1960s

Korean historians note the 1960s as a time of rapid economic growth in South Korea. Initially, the South Korean economy still depended largely upon foreign aid, although South Korea went through rapid industrialization under President Park Jeong Hee, an army general who seized government control in 1961. The major challenge facing President Park Jeong Hee was the lack of natural and raw resources after the war. Most of the natural resources in the Korean peninsula were in North Korea; therefore, South Korea had limited products for export. In 1964, the South Korean government hatched a plan to start the export of wigs. South Korean women began selling hair to wig factories and by 1970, wigs accounted for 9.3% of South Korea’s overall exports.

Japanese Manufacturing to South Korea

In conjunction, many Japanese textile and electronics companies began moving labor-intensive assembly plants to South Korea. As companies hired Koreans as plant employees, they gained knowledge that eventually aided in the start of Korean-owned electronics corporations. Further, the South Korean government aided in funding business conglomerates, such as Samsung and LG, by providing substantial subsidies and loans. Despite this profound economic growth, poverty in South Korea was still present from the Korean War.

The poverty-stricken Korean assembly workers made the miracle of the Han River possible. During South Korea’s rapid growth, the government’s focus on cheap exports resulted in the repression of workers’ rights. For example, competing within the international market, Korean chaebols maintained a low labor cost, resulting in underpaid workers. Additionally, it was common for manufacturing workers to work 10-hour days every day of the week. Employers and the government often ignored safety regulations and concerns too. President Park Jeong Hee outlawed unionization, making it impossible for workers to fight for rights.

In a Washington Post 1977 report, the reality of Korean workers during the 1970s was clear. William Chapman shadowed a Korean woman, Miss Lee, and found, “[that] while Korea has gleaming new factories and a growing middle class, it remains a land of miserable poverty and Dickensian wage and employment conditions for the working class.” Chapman reports abuse such as low daily wage, long working hours and lack of workers’ bargaining powers. Chapman’s work reflected terrible working conditions and their implications on poverty in South Korea.

South Korean Poverty Today

While poverty rates have significantly decreased since the 1970s, poverty in South Korea is still present. Today, two major groups experience poverty in South Korea: the non-regular workers and the elderly.

The term non-regular workers refers to the fixed-term, part-time and dispatched workers who constitute one-third of employees in South Korea. In addition to a lack of job security, non-regular workers typically earn one-third less than regular workers. This income inequality is titled market dualism. Because of the income gap, non-regular workers have less access to insurance and company-based benefits.

Many of the South Korean elderly also live in poverty. Because of their high seniority-based wages and dated industry knowledge, most workers must leave their companies at around age 50. In 2017, the unemployment rate for the 55 to 64 age group was 67.5%, which is above the OECD average of 59.2%. Those who are employed usually find themselves in temporary employment with low wages. While South Korea has a national pension service, the recent rise in the elderly population is putting a strain on the system.

The history of poverty in South Korea comes from the country’s war-torn society. The rapid economic growth during the 1960s and the 1970s came at the cost of workers’ rights and exploitation, and ultimately, the poor in South Korea. In 2020, South Korea still struggles to make equitable working conditions for the elderly and non-regular workers.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Libyan Civil War
In the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, protests broke out in Benghazi, Libya in February 2011. The protest was over the arrest of human rights lawyer Fethi Tarbell. When the government responded with greater and deadlier force to suppress the protests, demonstrators took up arms against the Qaddafi regime. NATO forces intervened in support of the rebels, who found and killed Qaddafi in October of that year. Libya has experienced a civil war between the Libyan National Army and the General National Congress. The ongoing conflict has had severe consequences for the Libyan people. Here are four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War.

4 Humanitarian Costs of the Libyan Civil War

  1. Displacement: The Libyan Civil War has resulted in the displacement of tons of Libyans. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the amount of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Libya was upwards of 217,000 people as of late 2017. By January 2020, the estimated number of IDPs rose to 343,180 Libyans. In addition to these IDPs, Libya is housing tens of thousands of refugees. Because of its proximity to Europe, Libya has remained a hub for migrants and asylum-seekers despite the civil war. Currently, Libya has 46,913 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Refugees and migrants living in Libya face unsafe living conditions. This can lead to a litany of abuses at the hands of smugglers and members of militias and gangs including rapes, beatings and killings. This is due to weak law enforcement in Libya. Both internally displaced Libyans and refugees from other countries are often exposed to the violence of the civil war.
  2. Poor Living Conditions: The civil war has significantly worsened living conditions for Libyans. Three percent of Libya’s population, or 229,468 people, live in extreme poverty. Rural Libyans more commonly live in these conditions when measured proportionally. The incredibly high unemployment rate has worsened economic living conditions of young Libyans. At 48.7 percent, Libya now has the fourth-highest youth unemployment rate in the entire world. More young people in Libya are unemployed per capita than in the Gaza Strip or in Syria. More than 1.3 million are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya. In addition, hundreds of thousands of them lack adequate access to health care and essential medicines, reliable food, drinking water sources, safe shelter and education.
  3. Violation of Human Rights: An important consequence of the civil war is the transgression of basic rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, armed militias and ISIS fighters have threatened and attacked religious minorities. This includes Sufis, Ibadis and Christians. They destroyed religious sites in Libya with impunity. Unidentified groups have committed several attacks of violence against Sufi religious sites including a historic Sufi mosque in Tripoli and Sidi Abu Gharara. The violation of freedom of speech and expression occurs when groups have intimidated, threatened and physically attacked activists, journalists, bloggers and media professionals. Journalists and members of the media have experienced arrests and detainments without charge.
  4. Human Trafficking: Another problem that has intensified during the civil war is human trafficking. According to the CIA World Factbook, Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Migrants who seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or who transit Libya en route to Europe are vulnerable to forced labor. Traffickers often force migrants to work on farms and construction sites. Additionally, they frequently force women to work in brothels. Militias and armed groups have been forcibly enlisting children under 18 years old since 2013. The civil war exacerbates this problem. The violence and unrest of the conflict hinder the ability of international actors and of the Libyan government to gather information on human trafficking. Libya’s judicial system is dysfunctional. Thus, the government cannot investigate, prosecute or convict traffickers, complicit detention camp guards or government officials, or militias or armed groups that used child soldiers. The Libyan government cannot protect trafficking victims.

International Response

These four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War have significant negative effects on local civilians. In response to the civil war and its effects, organizations like the U.N. sought to provide aid to the Libyan people. The UNHCR has instituted a Quick Impact Project (QIPs) in Libya. It is a small project that helps support those in need with health, education, shelter or water and sanitation sectors. UNHCR provides vital assistance to refugees and migrants at 12 disembarkation points in western Libya. Other activities include working to end the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, resettlement, family reunification and voluntary repatriation.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe. The country has been one of the center points of the Yugoslavian Wars that tore across the area in the 1990s. It was the location of countless atrocities, such as the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995. The impact of these events still exists across the country today, despite 25 years of improvements and advancements. Part of this impact was the reduction in life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is around 77 years. This is more than most of the other countries in the Balkans, surpassed only by Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. However, in the European Union, life expectancy is the average of 81 or the Balkan average of 77. All of the Balkan countries are above the world average of 72 years despite genocide and war afflicting them.
  2. Instability: The country’s average life expectancy was on a linear growth before the wars and peaked at 71.6 in 1987. However, the loss of life and general prosperity from the instability of late Yugoslavia followed by the violence of the wars and genocide caused a massive dip in this figure. In fact, its life expectancy did not return to prewar figures until 1995.
  3. Reduced Life Expectancy: Before the war, the population peaked at 4.5 million people in 1989. In contrast, up to an estimated 300,000 fatalities massively dented this figure. By 1996, a quarter of the pre-war population displaced while around 1.2 million fled the country in a mass migration. Additionally, high-income families generally have a higher life expectancy which links to the reason behind the life expectancy loss.
  4. Life Expectancy Growth: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown by 6.6 percent from 1996 until 2017. This is slower than the world growth of 8.7 percent in the same time frame. This is likely due to poor economic growth and countless health issues.
  5. Air Pollution: Large amounts of air pollution result in many premature deaths. It also reduces general life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina by at least 1.1 years overall. Poor control over energy generation pollution output has cost the people of the country 130,000 years of life overall in the last 10 years. This is due to poorer respiratory health and increased incidences of lung cancers. To combat this, cities and decisionmakers within the country are coordinating with an organization like the U.N. Environment. They will switch energy production from polluting sources such as old coal generators to renewables. For example, the project District Heating in Cities Initiative is attempting to replace the heating oil system of the city Banja Luka to biomass generators. This will cut emissions by 90 percent.
  6. Life Expectancy Disparities Between Genders: The differences in life expectancy between genders are significant. As men live an average of 74.6 years, while women live five years more on average at 79.5 years. This is likely caused by various social conditions such as the expectation for men to take on more dangerous jobs. In addition, suicide rates are disparately high in men compared to women.
  7. Death Rate: Bosnia has a very high death rate. It is the 39th highest in the world at 10 deaths for every 1,000 people. This is due to air pollution, destroyed infrastructure from the war and water shortages. Also, many areas of the country have poorly rebuilt electric networks and poor train lines or road systems. Due to this, reactive health care has suffered in many areas, making it impossible for people to get to hospitals. However, with investments and concentrated efforts, this has been changing for the better. As the country rebuilds train lines and improves roads, motorway fatalities have gone from dozens a year to simply two in 2014.
  8. The Poverty Rate: The poverty rate in the country is 2.2 percent, but lack of health does not contribute greatly to its poverty rate. This means many of those in poverty do not struggle with health care issues. This is due to the fact that the government provides health insurance to even the unemployed, reducing out-of-pocket costs for the country’s poor on these issues.
  9. Health Care Spending: The majority of health care spending in the country is government spending. Around 71 percent of all health care spending is public funding. Of the 29 percent private expenditures, nearly all of it is purchases of household health materials such as bandages and medicine. Meanwhile, the country spends 1 percent on other expenses, indicating that these private expenses are less likely to be costly affairs that may serve to hurt the financial stature of citizens.
  10. Preventative Care: Preventative care is minimal in the country as programs like education and advising programs, immunization programs, epidemiological monitoring and disease risk control and disaster response programs only make up 1.8 percent of total health care funding. This likely plays a large part in the death rate as preventative care is extremely important in ensuring long lifespans. However, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union have been working in tandem with NGO projects to boost immunizations in the country including World TB Day, Immunization Week, Anti-TB Week and World AIDS Day. Additionally, the aim is to build trust in vaccines amongst the general populace.

These 10 facts show how damaging the war has been on the general health and lifespan of the population. While the years since have seen improvements, they have not been enough to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina to par with the rest of the world. Damaged public infrastructure, lack of focus on preventative care and deteriorating environmental conditions are some of the primary reasons behind the slow increase of the country’s life expectancy.

– Neil Singh
Photo: Flickr

 

Women’s Health Care in Syria
Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a war-torn country in Western Asia. These war efforts have caused a series of attacks against women’s health care in Syria and made female health care more difficult to come by. In Syria’s civil war, violent attacks continue to target health care workers and clinics, and particularly female health clinics.

Fear of Attack

Fear of attack also plays a role in keeping women from what health resources they do have. Many of the childbirth centers that remain are located in rural areas, making them difficult for many women to reach. Fear of attack in the vicinity of health clinics inhibits patients and health professionals alike. The regime’s campaign of gender-based sexual violence is a large contributor to this fear. The vulnerability that comes with the travel necessary to reach the available health clinics put women at further risk of attack.

These attacks and the consequent shutdown of many maternal health facilities are seriously threatening maternal health. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 320 health clinics suffered attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 826 health workers, 85 of whom were women. By the end of 2015, only 16 of the 43 childbirth centers previously available in Syria remained. The lack of access to these facilities and health professionals leave many women with no safe conditions to deliver their children. Moreover, they have no opportunity for checkups or preventative shots once they deliver their children.

Overall Health Care

The conflict also threatens basic preventative care for women. Things like mammograms and regular checkups are no longer available and few female health professionals remain in Syria, making health care even more difficult for practicing Muslims to find. Gynecological services and even menstruation pads are incredibly difficult to come by. Women who do survive the hardships of the war suffer from malnutrition and struggle with even the basic necessities for survival.

The Molham Volunteering Team

In the midst of the conflict, however, there are efforts to preserve and improve female health care. Groups like the Molham Volunteering Team are working to fill in the gaps in women’s health care in Syria. A group of Syrian students brought this group together to provide necessities, such as food and medicine, to Syrians in need. When crises emerge, the Molham Volunteering Team assembles emergency campaigns to help, such as its campaign to raise money to support victims of the attacks targeting Maarat Al-Numan. The campaign has nearly reached its goal of $250,000.

Another focus of the Molham Volunteering Team is to raise the funds necessary to cover hospital fees for women and other costs of childbirth. It has even begun a campaign to raise money in support of health workers and clinics against the attacks. To date, the campaign has raised about a quarter of its $10,000 goal.

The Violet Organization

The Violet Organization, a nonprofit organization in Turkey, has opened a health center in rural Idlib where women have access to maternal and reproductive health care. A group of young volunteers, with the goal of helping secure the basic needs of families through food and cash donations, founded The Violet Organization. Today, The Violet Organization focuses not only on immediate aid but also on long-term projects like the Idlib health center, which offers treatment for ovarian and breast cancer, as well as basic checkups and consultations.

The Mazaya Center

The Mazaya Center attempts to educate women about their health issues. The Mazaya Center, which volunteers started to empower women, is another nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues in northern Syria. It provides paramedic training and first aid classes. These two-month training sessions, which female nurses lead, aim to educate women about reproductive and maternal health as well as family issues.

In the face of the Syrian civil war, civilians are struggling to find the basic necessities for survival, and safe access to women’s health care in Syria has become yet another casualty. Despite the looming threat to women and health professionals, it is evident that there are people continuing their work to ensure that health care and education are available to the women who need it most.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr