Information and news War and Violence

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

10 Facts About Vietnamese Boat People

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

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

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Animated War MoviesMovies have long presented the ill effects war has on communities, but animated war movies shatter expectations. They linger between reality and imagination but play on emotional vulnerabilities while maintaining a subtle level of detachment. Here are three animated war movies that have changed the perception of war films, animation and war itself.

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

The film is a documentary that unfolds the repressed memories of its director, Ari Folman, who served in the Israeli Army during the 1982 Lebanon War. Even though Folman does not consider the Lebanese or Palestinian perspective, the film remains a harrowing journey from the anguishes of war to absolute horror.

Israel invaded Lebanon to fight the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and help establish a new order under the Lebanese Christian Phalangists. Folman’s spectacular visual journey builds up to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which turns into disturbingly real footage. The film almost wrestles with Israel’s culpability.

Following the assassination of Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, with then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon claiming there were thousands of terrorists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, Israeli soldiers sealed off Sabra and Shatila, and Phalangists militiamen entered the camps.

“In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men,” Seth Anziska wrote at The New York Times. Sources report the casualties as high as three thousand.

Today, Sabra and Shatila are cramped and overcrowded, with scarce electricity and a contaminated water supply. American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) helps fund organizations that provide pre-school programs, vocational training and psychological assistance to Sabra and Shatila refugees. The prospect of refugees returning to Palestine remains bleak.

Grave of Fireflies (1988)

Originally a short story by Japanese author Akiyuki Nosaka, the film is an animated semi-autobiography about Nosaka’s experience during the firebombing of Kobe and the death of his little sister. The late historian and film critic, Roger Ebert, called the film “one of the greatest war films ever made.”

Over nine thousand tons of U.S. fire-bombs destroyed 31 square miles of Kobe, while the Tokyo air raid destroyed 20 percent of the city in one of the deadliest air raids in history – worse than Nagasaki and almost equal to Hiroshima.

According to historian Masahiko Yamabe, while earlier raids targeted military facilities, the Tokyo fire-bombing purposefully targeted areas with wood and paper homes. These areas usually exceeded 100 thousand people per square mile.

The film depicts the inferno and desecration, but survival and love make it a masterpiece portrayal of family and survivor’s guilt. Nosaka blamed himself for his sister’s death, and the apology is commemorated in the tender moments shared between the characters Seita and his sister, Setsuko.

The destruction and horror that befell these cities aren’t widely discussed in Japan. Yamabe said governments are reluctant to admit it was all the result of an outright refusal to end the war sooner. Other factors include how the atomic bombings eclipsed the attacks and how fast Japan rebuilt.

Hiroshima began rebuilding just hours after it was decimated – a communal effort, aided by volunteers. In March 1946, Kobe began a series of long-term master plans for postwar recovery. Despite the firebombs seemingly fading from memory, many survivors are determined to tell their stories.

Funan (2018)

Inspired by the director’s mother during the Khmer Rouge regime, Funan is not so much an animated war movie depicting genocidal atrocities as it is about a family struggling to survive and reunite under unimaginable duress and terror.

The Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 and lasted for four years under the leadership of Pol Pot. The regime sought an entirely new country, one free of money, family ties, religion, education and property. As a result, an estimated two million people died from forced labor, disease, starvation or execution. Doctors, teachers and engineers were executed, and all existing infrastructure was destroyed.

Film critic Peter Debruge parallels Funan to the animated war movie Grave of the Fireflies. Both have an ability to balance emotional intimacy and distance when depicting “unwatchable” tragedy. The process of healing from the genocide only began with the establishment of The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in 2006. The tribunal is tasked with investigating the Khmer Rouge, but its future is uncertain.

It took nine years for the first case to go to trial, and 12 years and $320 million to convict three men. In 2018, two of these men, Non Chea and Khieu Samphan, were found guilty of genocide over the attempted extermination of the Cham Muslim and Vietnamese minorities – the only genocide conviction against the Khmer Rouge.

Despite the tribunal’s faults and opposition from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodians are beginning to overcome their fears and face their wounds. One example is the television show “It’s Not A Dream,” which has reunited more than 50 Cambodian families.

Animated war movies not only depict the destruction of war, but also the human cost. Despite the hardships, humanity has been able to bounce back from war – at least to a point – but no progress is made without communal and international support.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Peace in Africa
Political unrest, ethnic tensions and legacies of colonial exploitation beget chaos and violence in many parts of Africa. Wars, border disputes and ethnic violence cause destruction, divide families and disrupt economies, consequences which create and perpetuate poverty. Fortunately, some nonprofits are partnering with local communities, leaders and intellectuals to work toward conflict resolution, and ultimately, peace in Africa.

About ACCORD

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) is a nonprofit civil society organization and think tank that specializes in conflict management, analysis and prevention. Vasu Gounden, who believes that innovative solutions to conflict in Africa must come from the minds of African citizens, established it in 1992 in Durban, South Africa. ACCORD works closely with international organizations like the U.N. and the African Union (AU) to facilitate negotiations, train mediators and encourage healthy relationships among African leaders. The organization also conducts extensive research through analysis and experience-sharing events and Pennsylvania University’s prestigious ranking process has ranked it as one of the top 100 think tanks worldwide.

Strategies for Peace

ACCORD’s six pillars for peace illustrate the organization’s strategy for establishing peace in Africa through activism and dialogue. ACCORD recognizes the importance of listening to key stakeholders like women and youth, who peace processes often underrepresent, by working to elevate their roles in mediation and post-conflict reconstruction. The organization also works with Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to develop peacebuilding strategies like mediation training, dialogue frameworks and reconciliation strategies. The regional dimensions of most security challenges in Africa (border disputes, multinational ethnic group tensions, ideological extremism and cross-border displacement) put RECs in a unique position to prevent and troubleshoot conflicts. This relationship is at the forefront of ACCORD’s strategy; the first pillar for peace is “to reinforce the institutional capacity of the AU and RECs to prevent and peacefully resolve conflicts.”

Troubleshooting, Brainstorming and Problem Solving

ACCORD regularly organizes and hosts high-level retreats and roundtable events with the AU, U.N., RECs and civil society organizations (CSOs) to address such issues as civil wars, sexual and gender-based violence and socio-economic impediments to peace and development. These roundtables build networks linking African peace workers and mediators across the continent. Scholars agree that CSOs link social, geographic and economic groups in society and play a critical role in providing domestic oversight and upholding institutions. ACCORD’s retreats and workshops, like its Lessons Learned from Inclusive National Peacebuilding Processes workshop, connect CSOs in order to foment peace in Africa. Discussions at roundtable events troubleshoot peacekeeping mechanisms like early warning systems (which analyze and predict conflict) and encourage peer-to-peer collaboration on women’s rights, mediation strategy, education, economic development and other issues.

ACCORD has also been working to combat the sexual violence that often accompanies conflict. In February 2019, the organization participated in a Training of Trainers course to inform African peacekeeping institutions about how to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations. In light of a recent scandal wherein, more than 43 U.N. peacekeepers received accusations of sexual exploitation or abuse, training like this is crucial in preventing future incidences of sexual violence.

Training and Mediating

ACCORD has intervened in 34 countries across Africa, employing peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategies to mediate and contain conflict, developing capacities for peace. The organization has been running a peace program in Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, since 1995. Throughout the Burundi civil war, ACCORD trained community leaders, civil society, political actors and other key stakeholders in conflict prevention, management and transformation.

Additionally, ACCORD has launched a peace initiative in the Central African Republic (CAR), and in November 2018, hosted a dialogue for members of the CAR’s negotiating team. Themes during the dialogue included negotiation techniques, classical and nonverbal communication, the concept of strategic compromise and ways of dealing with armed groups.

Peace and Poverty Relief

Conflict monitoring, analysis, prevention and resolution are integral in establishing foundations for peace in Africa. Many recognize the connection between conflict and poverty, and how it can be detrimental to communities. Only when conflict-ridden communities establish peace, economic prosperity and collective well-being can become reality. ACCORD works with community leaders, civil society organizations, individuals and other stakeholders across Africa to establish foundations for peace and conflict management.

– Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Threat of WarThe U.S. spends nearly $649 billion on military defense with the budget set to grow for the fifth consecutive year in 2020. Meanwhile, 98 countries have decreased military spending, something the Global Peace Index has called the largest improvement for peace. Although people perpetuate militarization and war as necessary tools for peace and security, as well as a means to reduce the future threat of war, such ideals are not true.

Dispelling War Myths

According to the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, during the war on terror, terrorism actually increased and spread. Several U.S. military commanders have made statements against war, claiming that violence and particular war tactics are actually creating a greater threat, not suppressing it. The former head of the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center, Robert Grenier, stated that counter-terrorism strategies can backfire by helping form enemy alliances and therefore a larger threat.

“[Al Qaeda] are not just focused on helping oppressed Muslims in Kashmir or trying to fight the NATO and the Americans in Afghanistan, they see themselves as part of a global struggle, and therefore are a much broader threat than they were previously. So in a sense, yes, we have helped to bring about the situation that we most fear,” Grenier told Frontline.

Reports of a modern arms race have circulated for the past two years. Senior U.N. security expert, Renta Dwan, said the risk of a nuclear war is at its highest since WWII. There are over 13 thousand nuclear weapons in nine countries. Ninety percent belongs to the U.S. and Russia, yet using less than half of India and Pakistan’s arsenal is enough to cause a worldwide nuclear winter. A peace treaty banning nuclear weapons has only 23 of the 50 ratifications it needs to come into effect but the United States, Russia and other nuclear powers strongly oppose it.

Even if a nuclear threat had a low annual risk – as some claim – a group of physicians published an article for the American Heart Association arguing that experts need to think of the threat in terms of humanity’s lifetime. This is parallel to how cardiologists think of the cumulative risk of heart disease over a lifespan, not just within a given year. This means a one percent annual risk of a nuclear war translates to a 50 percent risk over a 70-year period. They claim that just as preventing heart disease requires behavioral changes such as losing weight, preventing nuclear war also requires a change in high-risk behavior, such as threats, sanctions and false accusations.

Changing the threat of war isn’t as unrealistic as it sounds. The European Union has established social institutions to deal with conflict between member states, and there are many global networks and health professionals working to end war as an institution. The first time the idea of ending the threat of war nearly came to fruition was during the Cold War, with the historical and ambitious US-USSR agreement in 1961, or the McCloy-Zorin Accords.

A World Without War

The McCloy-Zorin Accords outlined a detailed plan for a general and complete disarmament. Many agree that disarmament, international law enforcement and investment are all necessary to end the threat of war. Partial or full disarmament is a must, including selling weapons to countries that do not manufacture them but needs to be under the supervision of an international organization to verify the disarmament.

The accords specified that people carry the disarmament out in stages and that an international disarmament organization verify each stage. The accord recognized non-nuclear armaments, establishments and facilities as necessary for maintaining internal order, but called for the abolishment of weapon stockpiles, national armed forces, military establishments and the discontinuance of military budgets.

The accord also required simultaneous efforts to strengthen peace and international arbitration institutions. U.N. conflict management already resolves many conflicts, but better resourcing could maximize its impact. The World Court also resolves many interstate conflicts but does not recognize war as a crime. The accords are a gilded example of how to end the threat of war and prove its attainability.

How Non-Violence Prevails

Non-violent and civil disobedience campaigns have proven to be more effective in resisting tyranny, resolving conflicts and achieving security than violence. From 1900 to 2006, non-violent campaigns were twice as likely to succeed as violent rebellions across the globe. Non-violent campaigns are also more likely to usher in democratic intuitions and are 15 percent less likely to result in a civil war.

Even when non-violent resistance meets with violence, non-violence still prevails two-to-one. A major benefit of non-violent campaigns is how they tend to draw in larger and more diverse groups of people, but many of these campaigns usually happen without any training or support. If people better resourced such efforts and trained civilians, these campaigns could be even more successful.

Large and well-coordinated campaigns are actually able to switch from concentrated methods, such as protests, to dispersed methods when met with violence. Dispersed methods include strikes, stay-at-home demonstrations, a coordinated shut-down of electricity and even banging pots and pans. Dispersed methods, said Professor Erica Chenoweth, are “very hard or at least very costly to suppress, while the movement stays just as disruptive.”Chenoweth, a professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, believes that if history courses shifted focus onto the decades of mass civil disobedience that came before the Declaration of Independence, or if Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King came first and not as an afterthought, then perhaps the “war culture” could change and end the threat of war.

The 2019 Global Peace Index reports that 104 countries recorded an increase in terrorism, while only 38 improved. Changing international policies and promoting civil disobedience instead of violence and war as a means for change does not only make movements of change more resilient but prevents terrorism and promotes stability.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr

Health care in YemenYemen is currently in the midst of a violent civil war. The war has had a destabilizing effect on Yemen’s health care system. The Yemeni people face high rates of malnutrition, a cholera epidemic and a lack of access to necessary medical resources. This article provides 10 facts about health care in Yemen, the war’s effect on health care and the role of foreign aid in addressing the country’s health problems.

10 Facts About Health Care in Yemen

  1. Because medical facilities in Yemen lack access to necessary resources like clean water, diseases that are treatable elsewhere become deadly. Approximately 80 percent of Yemeni people are malnourished, forced to drink unclean water and cannot afford health care, making them more susceptible to diphtheria, cholera and other diseases. The current civil war has also been greatly destructive to infrastructure and health care in Yemen.
  2. Bombing frequently damages hospitals in Yemen and it is difficult for hospitals to maintain electricity and running water in the midst of airstrikes. Continuous fighting leaves little time to address structural damage and meet the needs of the Yemeni people. Families are often required to bring the sick and injured to hospitals without the aid of ambulances. All but one of Yemen’s 22 provinces are affected by fighting.
  3. Within less than a year of fighting in Yemen, airstrikes hit 39 hospitals. Troops from both sides of the conflict blocked outside access to the country, preventing the flow of medicine needed to treat diseases, such as cholera. This puts the Yemeni people, especially children, at risk; 144 children die from treatable diseases daily and more than 1 million children are starving or malnourished.
  4. Yemen’s rural populations lack easy access to hospitals and medical care. Rural facilities, such as those in the northern mountains, cannot provide adequate food to patients. The lack of food in many hospitals prevents successful treatment of malnourishment.
  5. The cholera epidemic began in Yemen in 2016, a year after the beginning of the civil war. By 2017, the disease spread rapidly. In 2019, cholera is still a serious problem in the country. It caused 2,500 deaths in Yemen within the first five months of 2019.
  6. Nearly one million cases of cholera were reported by the end of 2017. Yemen’s cholera outbreak is more severe than any other outbreak of the disease since 1949. Poor water filtration and sanitation triggered the outbreak’s severity.
  7. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s population, including 12 million children, require aid. During the first half of 2019, cases of cholera in children rose dramatically. 109,000 cases of cholera in children were reported between January and March of 2019. Nearly 35 percent of these cases were found in children below the age of 5.
  8. Between 2015 and 2018, Doctors Without Borders provided aid to 973,000 emergency room patients in Yemen. Volunteers for Doctors Without Borders treated about 92,000 patients injured by violence related to the war, treated 114,646 cases of cholera and treated 14,370 cases of malnutrition. Doctors Without Borders provides vital support to the health care system in Yemen.
  9. USAID cooperates with UNICEF and WHO to provide health care aid to Yemen, with a special emphasis on the health of mothers, infants and children. In 2017, USAID trained 360 health care workers at 180 facilities to treat child health problems. The facilities also received necessary resources from USAID. They also work with the U.N. Development Program to improve working conditions throughout Yemen, including the health care sector.
  10. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, USAID provided $720,854,296 in aid to Yemen. This aid funded a variety of projects, such as repaired water stations to ensure improved access to clean water. The U.S. also funds WASH, a program intended to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The ultimate goal of WASH is to improve health care in Yemen, especially for the rural poor.

Yemen’s health care system is in dire need of aid. The country’s government, overwhelmed by war, cannot serve the medical needs of its people, especially in light of the ongoing cholera epidemic. The efforts of USAID and other relief organizations can provide the support that Yemen’s health care system needs at this time.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Bloodiest War in HistoryWhat is the bloodiest war in history? To determine which wars or battles would qualify for the bloodiest or the deadliest can be tricky. Which war wins in meeting the criteria for this evaluation?

World War II

The global war between Axis, Allied and Neutral Powers that led to approximately 50,000,000 deaths, World War II. All of the chaos and controversy that created the First World War laid the foundation for the next global playing field of conflict that came to be The Second World War. This came about 20 years later after World War One.

During a financially and politically challenging time period for Germany, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist or Nazi party rose to German rule. Hitler began making tactical treaties with Italy and Japan. Hitler, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, began rearming German military in pursuit for more Lebensraum, or living space, for Germany. Once Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. As a result, World War II began.

What Happened During World War II

After invading Poland, Germany attacked Denmark and Norway. After that, the country went on to attack Belgium, The Netherlands and France. In the summer of 1940, Germany lost in its air attack attempt with its Air Force, the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe couldn’t defeat Britain’s Royal Air Force. Germany’s ally, Italy, experienced failure as well in attempts to expand the war. This was attempted by invading Greece and North Africa. In early 1941, Germany came to the rescue of its ally.

Later in 1941, Germany experienced a turning point of failure in its war efforts through attempting to invade Russia. Russia was too big, even with the inefficiencies of Russia’s counteraction. Its muscle and tenacity, paired with its harsh winter, sustained them at the expense of Germany’s army.

In 1943, Germany was backed into a corner to retreat after the end of the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. During 1944, the Germans were gradually backed out of USSR territory and the Russians continued to seek them out across eastern Europe and even back into their country in 1945.

On the coast of Normandy, in France that was currently occupied by Germany, is where the D-Day invasion took place. This was between Great Britain and the United States in June 1944. Germany’s army was being sandwiched in by Allied forces coming from the east and the west. The Soviet Union touched down in Berlin first which transpired into Germany’s surrender in May 1945 after Adolf Hitler’s suicide.

Some of the most renown relationships and battles of the war occurred in the Pacific beginning on December 7, 1941. This was when Japan attacked the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan was also fighting with China and developing expansion in the Southeast Asia-Pacific Region. The attack on Pearl Harbor led to the U.S. declaration of war on Japan. But their battles didn’t begin until the spring of 1942. These battles built up to the Battle of Midway where Japan suffered a massive loss.

In 1943, the struggle continued between the United States and Japan over the Solomon Islands and the Guadalcanal. The fighting in the Pacific continued in 1944 and 1945. Then, in early August, the United States dropped two atomic bombs in two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This resulted in the surrender of Japan.

Global Progress Since World War II

What is the bloodiest war in history? The answer points to World War II, having caused estimates of over 40 million deaths. The war also caused massive amounts of destruction in land and property.

Globally, the majority of the world was living in poverty 110 years before this Second World War. What progress has been made between then and now? After the Second World War, the United Nations Charter was signed by 50 countries to stand on valuing peace which is found in favor of social justice, development and eliminating poverty.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson set forth War on Poverty in the United States. The World Bank began developing studies on global poverty and creating a definitive system for the global poverty line. Ultimately, these efforts have led to overachieving successes such as the Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty rates and the development of Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate all forms of poverty. So, the bloodiest war in history? The bloodiest war in history, World War Two, resulted in tremendous losses globally but the goals of international leaders won’t let them be in vain.

–Janiya Winchester
Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Nigeria
Modern Nigeria arose in 1914  from two British Colonies, one predominantly Muslim and the other predominantly Christian. The difference in religion translated to different political beliefs, causing tension between the two populations. The resulting violence and constant tensions between different ethnic groups have caused disunity in Nigeria, making it vulnerable to the threat of different extremist groups, most infamous being Boko Haram.

Boko Haram Role in Conflict in Nigeria

Boko Haram, a major source of conflict in Nigeria, was first created in 2002, driven by existing beliefs that Islamic, Sharia law should be enforced. The group has used various tactics including suicide bombing, terrorizing public places, and kidnapping to push for their goal. The violence and fear they have spread have intensified the existing 53.5 percent poverty rate in Nigeria.

The crisis has displaced more than 2 million Nigerians and has left 228,000 refugees without a home. Nigerians facing conflict and displacement consequently have restricted access to food as there are 4.5 million people that are food insecure. Although the effects of conflict in Nigeria do depend on the area, with the North region of the country having generally more dramatic effects because of the presence of Boko Haram, the problems are present in the whole country. Blocked access to health care affects up to 11 percent of the population while restricted education affects up to 26 percent.

Health and Education Issues

As of 2017, Boko Haram destroyed 788 health facilities in Northeast Nigeria, leaving Borno state with 40 percent of its facilities lost. To make matters worse, 30 percent of Borno’s doctors have left the state in fear of the violence. Displacement brings health care concerns as well, with crowding increasing the risks of diseases in a country with a history of polio. The lack of health care facilities means that in the case of a disease outbreak, vaccines may not be fully distributed.

A similar situation exists for schools, with 57 percent in Borno not being in a condition to reopen, and 1,400 schools destroyed in this region. Children are also vulnerable to being used as suicide bombers, especially girls. The constant threat of violence, hunger and poverty prevents children from progressing and becoming educated, posing dangerous long-term effects for current and next generations.

Effects on Agriculture

The disunity and conflict spill over to the agricultural sector, sector that employs 70 percent of the total labor force. Pastoral farmers are moving south because of the threat of Boko Haram in the north, along with pressures of drought and limited space, create tension with existing sedentary farmers in the south. These often violent conflicts have killed 2,500 people in 2016 alone and have led to an annual loss of around $13.7 billion to the country.

It also forced the displacement of 62,000 people between 2015 and 2017, leaving them with restricted access to food and shelter and amplifying existing poverty in Nigeria. An end to these conflicts could potentially increase family income in the country up to almost 210 percent. With the majority of Nigerians depending on farming for their livelihood, it is evident that conflict Nigeria is worsening poverty.

The UNHCR in partnership with 70 organizations is working towards alleviating the effects of the conflict in Nigeria. They have offered child violence protection, gender-based violence protection, economic support and other services to around 180,000 people. With a focus on displaced people, the UNHCR has increased protection in displacement camps, making a safe place for those affected by the conflict.

Evidently, these conflicts are damaging the lives already impoverished people in the country, restricting their already limited access to food, education and health care services. Various organizations are fighting against these effects in order to hopefully improve the conditions of people affected by the conflict in Nigeria.

Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Chemical Attacks
Throughout history, especially in modern warfare, one of the most common ways to kill a mass group of people is through chemical attacks. A chemical attack is any toxic chemical used in the form of a weapon, typically contained in a delivery system- bomb or shell.

Chemical Attacks in World War I

In 1915, three chemical attacks responsible for injuries and deaths during World War I were: chlorine gas, mustard gas and phosgene. They are described as follows:

  • Chlorine gas produces a greenish-yellow cloud containing the smell of bleach and immediately affects the eyes, nose, lungs and throat.
  • Mustard gas, known as the “King of the Battle Gases” holds a potent smell described as garlic, gasoline, rubber or dead horses. Although mustard gas does not have an instant effect, hours after being exposed, the victims’ eyes turn bloodshot red, start watering and become extremely painful. Some victims face temporary blindness and even skin blistering.
  • Phosgene is an irritant that is six times deadlier than chlorine gas. This gas is colorless and smells like moldy hay but doesn’t affect the body until a day or two after an attack. The effect of this chemical attack is a slow suffocating death.

On average, chemical weapon agents (CWA) are the outcome of industrial accidents, military stockpiling, wars and terrorist attacks. These hazardous substances come in a variety, such as nerve agents, vesicating or blistering agents, choking agents or lung toxicants, cyanides, incapacitating agents, lacrimation or riot control agents and vomiting agents.

The last mass usage of chemicals in military operation recorded was when Syrian military used sarin gas against civilians during the Syrian Civil War in 2013, killing hundreds.

Effects of Chemical Attacks

The effects of chemical attacks range from physical to clinical and can have short-term or long-term consequences. Victims can be exposed through the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. The liquid and high vapor concentrations affect the skin, causing rashes, burning and blistering. Liquid and vapor gases affect the eyes, which can lead to severe burning, irritation and blindness. Lastly, vapor inhalation affects the respiratory tract, resulting in choking to death.

All agents have a more intense effect when used in an enclosed area. “All I know is I had to get my helmet on the first time because it felt like death the minute I walked in there,” Kori Holmes told the Borgen Project in an interview while describing his training experience in military boot camp for the army.

In preparation for the army, soldiers have to be able to walk in the room clouded with gas and put our gas masks on without any assistance. Kori stated that the gas was so strong, his eyes started burning instantly and his throat felt like he had strep. He managed to finally get his gas mask on and escape.

Clinical effects of chemical attacks are contingent upon the amount of exposure, which also means the effects can be sudden or delayed. For example, inhalation of nerve agents (mustard gas) can kill victims immediately. The smallest amount of exposure on the skin to a nerve agent can be deadly, with delayed effects.

Treatment of Chemical Attacks Victims

In an attempt to medically manage the effects of chemical attacks, emergency workers wear protective equipment in order to decontaminate victims and provide antidotes. The first responders to chemical attacks are at risk of being chemically contaminated when coming in direct contact with vapor or handling the skin and clothing of victims.

Even with treatment, long-term effects of chemical attacks are primarily mental, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. Physically, permanent brain damage and other disorders of the nervous system can happen.

The effects of chemical attacks can be deadly and are certainly and represent a step back in building a modern society. As of today, the possession and use of chemical weapons are prohibited under international law, yet there are still nations that continue to have active chemical weapon programs.

The United States has five incinerators in operation, with hopes of keeping citizens safe along with maintaining public health and the environment as the top priority.

– Kayla Sellers
Photo: Flickr

Ghosts of War: Healing Laos with UXO Jewelry
During the Vietnam War (1964-1973) over 250 million B-52 bombs were dropped on Laos. About 80 million of those bombs failed to detonate. The undetonated bombs remain a health hazard and safety risk today. While the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has been working on clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO) since 2004, the rural farmers of Laos are living with the risk of their children and themselves being injured or killed by undetonated bombs that were dropped 50 years ago. Sustainable jewelry brand Article 22 has partnered with local artisans to erase these ghosts of war by creating UXO jewelry.

The UXO danger

Seventeen percent of Laotians are rural rice farmers. Most of them live below the poverty line defined as having less than $1.92 a day. UXO’s are making it extremely difficult for families to climb out of poverty since the bombs were dropped in rural farming areas and farmers have to be extra careful when planting and harvesting their rice crops. Although some of the of UXO’s are marked, many are not, leaving Laotian farmers to live in a constant uncertainty. As bomb clearance expert John McFarland of MAG says: “If a bomb blows off someone’s arm, the family loses that income because they can no longer work.” Along with that uncertainty goes the fear that young children will wander into a UXO area and have a potentially fatal accident.

The constant fear that the UXO’s are causing to the peaceful life of Laotian people is unthinkable. Instead of focusing on simple things like going to work and getting their children educated, they have to worry about unidentified bombs going off. These ghosts of war are a constant reminder of a tragic past time in Laos. Article 22 founder Elizabeth Suda’s innovative approach to clear UXO land while improving farmer’s lives is inspiring hope.

Buying Back the Bombs

After seeing the spoons one Laotian man made from scrap metal of safely undetonated bombs, Suda knew that something more profitable was waiting to be made. Buying Back the Bombs is a campaign that pairs the work of local Laotian jewelry artists with Article 22, MAG and Swiss nonprofit organization Helvetas to sell UXO jewelry made from safely disarmed UXO. The goal is to provide extra income for Laotian rice farmers as well as UXO clearing and education for local communities. Spoon making inspired the idea, but Suda knew that making jewelry out of old bombs would be more profitable for the artisans locally and internationally. By selling bracelets, necklaces, and earrings made from old bomb scraps, these artisans make an extra income in addition to farming that is five times the local minimum wage. In addition, about three meters of land is cleared of UXO with every piece of UXO jewelry sold.

The combination of extra income and UXO clearing is changing the lives of Laotian people. Now, they have hope to work themselves out of poverty. The extra income has afforded some to send their children to school and through the UXO clearing and education, children are less likely to run into UXO. This peace of mind from having extra income and a safe neighborhood is giving people a chance to focus on other important things.

Initiative effects

In addition to getting extra cash from the sale of Article 22 jewelry, 10 percent of each sale goes to a community development fund where the artisans decide what to spend the money on. So far, they have used the money for electricity in communal areas and to finance microloans to start small businesses. Buying back the bombs has allowed poverty-ridden communities to thrive. Peacebomb jewelry is a beautiful solution to something that sadly still is a destructive force in Laotians lives. Continued projects such as this will help erase the ghosts of war.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

mustard gas
Dichlorodiethylsulfide, for which the chemical formula is C4H8Cl2S, is a chemical warfare agent known commonly as sulfur mustard or mustard gas. The first notes on its toxic properties occurred in the late 1880s by dye chemists. Its first use as an agent of chemical war was during World War I where exposed troops described its odor as a stench like mustard or garlic, leading to its common name.

What Does Mustard Gas Do?

Dubbed the “King of the Battle Gases,” the effects of mustard gas are not immediate, even though it is a potent blistering agent. Hours after exposure to the chemical, a victim’s eyes become bloodshot and begin to water. As the pain increases, some will suffer temporary blindness. A young Adolf Hilter, an enlisted messenger during World War I, was temporarily blinded by mustard gas during a gas attack and spent the rest of the war in a military hospital recuperating.

Along with the damage to a victim’s vision, the effects of mustard gas include blistering to the skin, particularly in moist areas such as the underarms and genitals. These blisters eventually begin to burst and often become infected.

When Was Mustard Gas Used?

Though first used during World War I, mustard gas was used throughout World War II as well. The development of chemical weapons has been an imperative for all military-obsessed governments ever since.

During the 1980s throughout the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq used chemical weapons, including mustard gas, against Iran as well as their own Kurdish minority. In fact, about 5,000 Iranian soldiers were killed, 10-20 percent by mustard agent. There were an additional 40,000-50,000 injured in a medical system overloaded by numerous victims in need of long and demanding care.

Mustard Gas’ Widespread Fog

In 2012, an official from the United States State Department confirmed that Syria had a stockpile of chemical weapons that included mustard gas. In 2013, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s government relinquished its arsenal of chemical weapons after threats of United States airstrikes; nonetheless, as recently as April of 2018 the OPCW Fact-Finding missions have reported “the very likely use” of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its own civilians.

Over the last twenty years, more than 60 percent of the world’s declared chemical weapon stockpiles were successfully eliminated in five of the seven declared chemical-weapons-possessing states. Despite these admirable efforts, almost 30,000 metric tons of chemical weapons still await destruction.

Stockpiles of Chemical Horror

In many conversations, nuclear and biological weapons overshadow the concern of chemical weapons; however, chemical weapons remain the most numerous, with some five million munitions awaiting destruction and two to four million additional suspected stockpiles undeclared by OPCW undeclared states.

Chemical weapons pose great risks to all people, especially those living in conflict-torn and terrorist heavy regions.

The Quest for Global Disarmament

Al Qaeda, Iraqi and Afghan insurgents continue efforts to steal or produce deadly chemical agents for indiscriminate terrorist attacks. It is everyone’s responsibility to work to destroy the world’s remaining chemical weapon stockpiles by supporting representatives who make the global disarmament of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons a priority.

A world free of all weapons of mass destruction will be a world safer and more secure for all who inhabit Earth.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr