Information and news War and Violence

Conflict in NigeriaModern 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 AttacksThroughout 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 JewelryDuring 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 gasDichlorodiethylsulfide, 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

Human Rights in IraqIn the wake of the Iraq war and the ISIS occupation of much of Iraq’s territory, human rights in Iraq appear to have been placed on the backburner. Human rights violations are not only limited to ISIS’s inhumane treatment and extermination of Shia Muslim; they also include the Iraqi forces’ abhorrent treatment of possible ISIS members and surrounding communities.

Nine Facts about Human Rights in Iraq

  1. Serious human rights violations have been prevalent in Iraq since 2014. The violations fall primarily into the categories of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Iraq has witnessed everything from terror attacks to sexual abuse, leaving millions of civilians without a home and forced to flee.
  2. ISIS is responsible for thousands of civilians deaths, punishing crimes deemed immoral and illegal under ISIS law. These atrocities and human rights violations include stoning people accused of crimes like adultery and stripping women and girls of human rights deemed basic in the United States. These attacks have been committed against civilians refusing to join the ranks of ISIS, putting them forth as an example to other resilient civilians.
  3. Human rights in Iraq have also been violated by government-led forces. Captured ISIS members, including those forced against their will, have been detained without any access to lawyers or aid. Kept in overcrowded prisons and denied communication with their families, access to the outside world and the ability to defend their actions, these prisoners are in a helpless situation.
  4. Iraq is one of the top three countries in the world for how many prisoners it executes. Hundreds of prisoners are kept on death row. At least 169 prisoners were executed in 2013; this figure has been on the rise ever since.
  5. Prisoners have reported that it is normal for confessions to be forced by the use of torture. This leaves room for wrongful convictions, as prisoners often give in to accusations simply to end the torture.
  6. With the aim of ending the reign of terror of ISIS, Iraqi forces have been given few limits on their methods used to fight against ISIS. Human rights violations by Iraqi forces are often masked under the label of fighting terror and helping the nation.
  7. Freedom of expression and association have been stripped by the Iraqi government, leaving little room for the growth of democracy. The Iraqi government used arms and violence to disperse peaceful protests in and around Baghdad during the recent provincial elections.
  8. Domestic violence is widely accepted in Iraq. The law deems sexual violence illegal; however, there is a large loophole. If the man accused of sexual assault marries the girl in question, it is no longer considered sexual assault. A 2012 study showed that 68 percent of women in Iraq have experienced some form of abuse from their husbands.
  9. Civilian casualties have been steadily decreasing since the overthrow of the ISIS regime. Compared to the peak of monthly deaths in October 2016, the number has significantly decreased. The figures dropped from 1,120 casualties in October 2016 to 76 in June 2018. This highlights the impact of the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

The country of Iraq has witnessed a myriad of internally and externally caused turmoil. However, since the takeback of Mosul and other ISIS-occupied territories, human rights may finally be respected and upheld by the Iraqi government. As the genocide committed by ISIS is recognized, it may pave the way for a safer life in Iraq where human rights are both respected and implemented.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Preemptive LoveFounded in 2007 by Jeremy and Jessica Courtney, The Preemptive Love Coalition is a nonprofit that offers relief and job creation to the war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq. Unlike many of its peer organizations, Preemptive Love offers aid as close to the front lines as possible – sometimes just blocks away from active warring.

In 2016, The Coalition made $9.98 million. Of that revenue, $9.75 million was raised through contributions, grants and gifts. Preemptive Love uses that revenue to fund its aid projects.

In contrast to many similar aid organizations in Syria and Iraq, Preemptive Love works to ensure that the services they provide offer local solutions to local problems. As a result, people in an area are not stranded if The Coalition leaves; they will continue to have local sources of aid set up by The Coalition.

Background and Focus

Preemptive Love began by offering medical aid to those affected by the Iraq war, providing families with desperately needed surgeries and therapies for their children. However, while witnessing surgeries performed by doctors from around the world, The Coalition saw that none of the doctors were training the local people to perform these life-saving medical procedures.

In response, Preemptive Love began to bring doctors into Iraq to teach medicine to refugees. The Coalition soon expanded the practice to Syria. Now, there are many clinics run entirely by Iraqi and Syrian doctors and nurses who are capable of performing procedures for which war-torn families previously waited for months.

This led to a new focus for Preemptive Love. First and foremost, The Coalition seeks to provide immediate relief to pressing issues that refugees face. But after providing immediate aid, Preemptive Love stays in those areas and helps the refugees gain the education and tools they need to create a better future for themselves.

When ISIS fully formed in 2013, Preemptive Love saw a unique opportunity to help those affected. The Coalition was already a trusted relief organization thanks to six years of relationships built with the people of Iraq. Beginning in 2014, Preemptive Love began offering relief to people affected by ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

Current Aid Efforts

Today, The Coalition offers various types of aid in five different categories: food and water, hygiene, medical care, emergency shelter, and various essentials.

For food and water aid, Preemptive Love offers long-lasting food packs, emergency kitchens and clean water. In this effort alone, Preemptive Love has provided 29,292,350 liters of water to families in conflict zones and given 411,690 people a month’s worth of food. The Coalition also offers hygiene kits that include sanitary pads, refugee-made soap, shampoo, detergent and other essentials. Medical care is provided by mobile clinics on the front lines of war in Syria and Iraq, supplying immunizations and training for refugee doctors to serve other refugees. Emergency shelters, as well as supplies to rebuild homes destroyed by war, are provided for families on the run from violence. The Coalition also offers various essentials to help families survive displacement due to war, enabling them to eventually return home.

Empowerment Through Business and Livestock

In addition to aid, Preemptive Love strives to meet and connect with the people of Syria and Iraq to help them lift themselves out of poverty. Preemptive Love creates jobs on a case-by-case basis by identifying skills each refugee already has, then empowering them to create their own income and fuel the economy of their local city.

Preemptive Love has also helped Syrian and Iraqi refugees start many businesses with empowerment grants, tools and business coaching. Sisterhood Soap and Kinsman Soap, organizations run by Iraqi refugees, provide a variety of hand-sewn products created and sold by women who fled from the Syrian civil war. Sales from hand-poured candles benefit widowed women in Baghdad. In addition to businesses, the livestock farming of chickens and sheep has provided nutrition and income for families, who benefit from the consumption and sale of the animals. Thanks to efforts like these, the return of bakeries, ice cream shops, restaurants and salons to cities across Iraq marks a shift to post-war normalcy.

Preemptive Love seeks to help those affected by war in Syria and Iraq regardless of location, socioeconomic factors or religion. Guided by their goal to “Love Anyway,” the nonprofit continues to make significant headway toward their goal of lessening the effects of war in Syria and Iraq.

– Savannah Hawley
Photo: Flickr

Golden Women VisionFor the past 30 years, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, has been terrorizing the northern region of Uganda and murdering its people. It is estimated that the LRA has abducted more than 67,000 adolescents to use as child soldiers, sex slaves and porters. But organizations like Golden Women Vision are giving hope back to the citizens of Uganda.

The Destruction Left Behind

Golden Women Vision works to improve the social-economic status of the people left vulnerable from the insurgency. Even after the conflict ended, the terror continued for many victims. Women were left battered and lost, some without limbs or living with bullet wounds. Widows were left without husbands and single mothers had their children taken by the LRA. These women were at a disadvantage for even basic survival.

“The real victims are the many who are in dire need of even finding what they need to eat on a daily basis,” said Joyce Freda Apio, a Kampala-based transitional justice expert, regarding how the insurgency left many without a source of income and stability.

Giving Women Hope

Sylvia Acan was one of those women severely affected by the insurgency. She lost her family to the conflict, was raped at the age of 17 and birthed six children after being forced to marry her attacker. In an effort to learn to provide for herself, Acan signed up with a nongovernmental organization called Caritas, which trained women in catering services to help them recover and reintegrate with society.

By 2008, Acan learned how to bake, gained business skills and realized the importance of financial savings. She also realized her skills could positively impact the lives of women around her. The traditionally patriarchal society of northern Uganda limited the potential of women, and many females affected by the insurgency were stuck in the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

Golden Women Vision

To change the futures of these women, Acan co-founded Golden Women Vision. The community-based organization trains women and girls with income-generating skills like baking, making soap or creating paper beads. With 84 members since its beginnings in 2011, the Golden Women Vision helps victims regain a sense of control and sufficiency.

Golden Women Vision works to provide women the skills and knowledge necessary for self-sustenance. By teaching the women how to create financial independence and security through their own means, they can be more successful throughout life. By forging a positive future and peace within the community, the organization not only teaches the women how to financially survive but also build bonds with each other.

“There is no one helping us so we are helping ourselves,” Acan said. “The world should see what women are capable of doing.”

– Jenny S Park
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Sierra LeoneThe nation of Sierra Leone is located on the western coast of Africa with a population of approximately 7,076,641. Since gaining independence from the British Empire on April 27, 1961, Sierra Leone has faced serious challenges in the social, economic and political spheres. Stemming from these challenges, the following are 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone.

10 Facts About Poverty in Sierra Leone

  1. In Sierra Leone, the life expectancy is 39 years for men and 42 for women. These premature deaths are due to limited access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and hygiene and food insecurity. Malnutrition also remains an important contributor to infant morbidity and mortality with 34.1 percent of children under the age of five stunted and 18.7 percent underweight due to food insecurity.
  2. Sierra Leone has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.662, ranking it 137 out of 146 countries in 2011. Significant gender-based inequality exists in all aspects of life including reproductive health, emotional empowerment, economic activity and governmental representation. Only 9.5 percent of adult women reach secondary or higher level education compared to 20 percent of their male counterparts.

    In 2007, the government introduced three gender laws aimed at reducing gender inequality. These acts show progress but enacting and implementing practices of gender equality remain minimal. The president has also given his support to the national campaign for a minimum quota of 30 percent of women in political decision making positions, but the number remains low at only 13.2 percent.
  3. Around 70 percent of youth are unemployed or underemployed. The youth population, aged 15 to 35, makes up one-third of the population of Sierra Leone. This challenge was a major root cause of the outbreak of civil conflict within Sierra Leone. One of the leading reasons for these high rates of unemployment is the persistence of illiteracy and the lack of formal education to provide skills to compete for the limited jobs available.
  4. Approximately 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans live below the national poverty line. Remaining among the world’s poorest nations, ranking 180 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, more than 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans live on less than $1.25 a day.
  5. Sierra Leone has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, at an estimated 1,165 deaths per 100,000. According to a report released by the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation with support from partners, the main causes of maternal deaths were largely bleeding, pregnancy-induced hypertension, infection and unsafe abortions. Almost 20 percent of maternal deaths were among teenagers 15 to 19 years of age.
  6. Sierra Leone holds only a 41 percent adult literacy rate. Many of the schools in Sierra Leone were built shortly after gaining independence and have had little expansion since, leading to inadequate facilities. Government funding for education is extremely limited, making improvements difficult. A lack of education not only diminishes the availability of contemporarily trained skilled laborers and professionals but also negatively affects the agriculture industry where poor farming practices compound with climate change in a cycle of degradation.
  7. Sierra Leone was ravaged from 1991 to 2002 by civil war. Civil war erupted in 1991 after a rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front attempted to overthrow the country’s Joseph Momoh Government. The war lasted until 2002, by which time over 50,000 people had died and over two million had been displaced.But, even in the face of these 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone, peace has been fostered within the nation. Since the enactment of a U.N. Peacekeeping intervention on January 18, 2002, Sierra Leone remains firmly on the path toward further consolidation of peace, democracy and long-term sustainable development.
  8. Sierra Leone remains heavily dependent on foreign aid. Although positive economic growth has steadily occurred over the past decade since the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone continues to rely on foreign aid. About 50 percent of public investment programs are financed by external resources.
  9. Recovery and development are being threatened by climate change. Employment in agriculture remains the backbone for citizens’ income in Sierra Leone. Climate change leads to low yields of critical crops and a potential annual loss of between $600 million and $1.1 billion in crop revenues by the end of the century. Resources such as water, soil and forests are being threatened by the ever-growing population, increasing energy consumption, mining activities, the pollution of rivers and massive deforestation related to agricultural practices.
  10. A largely unchanged economic structure with low levels of productivity and major reliance on agriculture hold back further economic recovery. Agriculture provides employment for about 75 percent of the rapidly growing population, but its continuation is threatened by unproductive farming techniques and climate degradation. The country’s infrastructure remains poorly maintained and because of business climate shortcomings stemming from economic instability, there is only a small private sector to spur further economic growth.

These 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone are far from the whole story. The country has made tremendous strides since the cessation of conflict to establish stable governance and to facilitate peace and security. Sierra Leone should be cited as a success story in peacebuilding.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautifully scenic country filled with small towns, cultural experiences and long-standing traditions. However, it is also a country with a history of genocide, poverty and weak government and oftentimes, the media zeros in the most on the latter aspects. The following is a discussion on how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Facts

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a relatively high crime rate due to petty thefts, violent crimes and even organized crime — a normalized idea in the country. Since the Bosnian War, the country experienced divisiveness and a near 20 percent of Bosnians live in poverty. The destruction of homes, buildings and infrastructure from the Bosnian War served as a large contributor to these societal occurrences. For context, these numbers compare to a United States poverty rate of 12.7 percent in 2016.

A once thriving country, how much has this really changed? What is Bosnia and Herzegovina like beneath the shadow of its most recent war? Below are a few key ways of how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Crime, Community and Division

Like all countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina experience crime; however, despite media attention to the issue, the overall crime rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina has dropped by over nine percent from 2016 to 2017.

Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina experience residual ethnic tensions leftover from the Bosnian War. This has, at times, filled the country with a great amount of division, especially regarding the current elections which brought ethnic divisions to the surface. To add fuel to this fire, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have started entering Bosnia and Herzegovina in droves. This has rocked the balance of the country’s seemingly low ethnic tolerance.

However, despite these facts and how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country prides itself on its religious and ethnic diversity. This is most apparent when speaking with everyday citizens, as opposed to conversing with extremists or minority members.

In an interview with a native to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sanela Hotic, whose family was not only displaced by the Bosnian war but experienced the loss of both her father and brother, expresses memories of her hometown of Bratunac. She recalls it being, “very peaceful and quiet,” saying, “everyone got along and were unified by a sense of community; all parents were everyone’s parents, all kids, everyone’s kids. We were all one.”

She goes on to say that religion did not play a factor in determining whether people got along. In her words, “they just did.” The sense of community spread further than the surface, Sanela explains, citing memories of celebrating both Eid, an Islamic holiday signifying the end the fasting period of Ramadan as well as Christmas with her Christian neighbors.

Government Structure

Since the Bosnian War, Bosnia and Herzegovina has dedicated attention to the restructuring and rebuilding of a functioning government. While this task proved difficult, the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina loyally dedicated themselves to seeing this goal through.

There have been several failed attempts at structuring a new government, and none without criticism from media outlets who often fault the nation for its failed attempts. But despite how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina for government failures, citizens have not given up on their country and continue to push for better representatives and new laws.

Tradition

Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to the city of Mostar and its long-standing tradition of bridge diving. This annual event has been a method used for males to impress females for centuries. Within the last few years, the diving tradition has turned into a competition that thousands of people gather to watch.

A “cliff diving” competition, sponsored by Red Bull, will host cliff diving competition finals in Mostar. One can only assume this contest is due to the intense challenge provided by the newly rebuilt bridge of 2003. 

Sightseeing

If someone is looking for things to do on a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, an interesting stop might include the Sarajevo Olympic Stadium. In 1984, the country hosted the Winter Olympics in the capital city of Sarajevo, and the Olympic stadium is still around today and is available for tours that include not only the stadium but also the Olympic mountains.

Further in the sightseeing category is a visit to Guber water in Srebrenica which is said to possess healing effects. This fact is likely due to the high iron content of the water which can be helpful for those dealing with iron deficiency or anemia.

Cuisine

Bosnia and Herzegovina is also known for its Ottoman-Empire-influenced cuisine. Some more famous cuisine items in the country include Turkish coffee and chevap, a pita stuffed with sausages. Bosnia and Herzegovina is also well-known for its variety and quality of desserts, one of which includes baklava, which also exists in Greek cuisine.

Despite how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is a culturally flourishing nation home to many religions, ethnicities and communities bound together by a sense of unity. In the coming years, Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to rebuild itself while the world watches their continued progress.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

Ethiopian-Eritrean Border
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ethiopia announced that after 16 years of what the BBC has called a “no peace no war” stalemate between the nation and its neighbor Eritrea, Ethiopia will finally accept the Algiers Agreement — a treaty to bring peace to the Horn of Africa and the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute.

History of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute

Ethiopia and Eritrea split into two nations after nearly 30 years of brutal civil war that resulted in Eritrea’s declaring independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Despite this conclusion, peace was short-lived. From 1998-2000, fighting resumed between the two nations over a border dispute centered around both nations’ claim to the town of Badme.

The dispute was rooted in the nations’ differing interpretation of colonial documents demarcating the line between Ethiopia and its subsidiary Eritrea. The Ethiopian-Eritrean 1998-2002 war became Africa’s bloodiest border war on record; in just two years, an estimated 80,000 people lost their lives.

The war culminated in the creation of the December 12, 2000 Algiers Agreement, which stated that both nations would cease fighting and accept the verdict offered by the newly created Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC).

In 2002, the EEBC ruled that the disputed towns along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, Badme among others, belonged to Eritrea. Under its former, and now deceased, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia accepted the EEBC’s ruling only “in principle” which lead to the “no peace no war” stalemate that has characterized the Horn of Africa ever since.

Although the Algiers Agreement stated that the two nations would end all hostilities and accept the ruling of the EEBC, Ethiopia refused to pull its troops out of the border towns it still claimed ownership over. Occasional deadly clashes have continued to plague the Ethiopian-Eritrean border region ever since; the most recent occurred in June of 2016, when fighting at Badme resulted in several hundred deaths.

Ethiopia Accepts the Algiers Agreement

However, the hostile climate along Ethiopian-Eritrean border may have just changed. On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ethiopia, under its current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, announced that it would officially accept the border decision of the 2000 Algiers Agreement and remove all Ethiopian troops from Badme and the other contested towns.

At his inauguration this past April, Ahmed vowed to improve relations between his nation and Eritrea, and his pledge to end all hostilities over the Ethiopian-Eritrean border dispute was an unexpectedly large step in this direction.

Looking Forward

Ending border hostilities could be a huge leap forward in ensuring peace and prosperity in the Horn of Africa. The Eritrean government has long justified its authoritarian and militaristic regime as necessary to protect Eritreans from the continued hostilities of its neighbor Ethiopia, but as Abraham T. Zere of Al Jazeera wrote, “Today, there is a real opportunity to reach a peaceful resolution of this long-standing conflict.”

With Ethiopia offering up the potential for peace, Eritrea has the chance to accept this olive branch and move forward to create a more peaceful and prosperous future for all.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr