Information and news War and Violence

Displaced_refugees_Syria

Every day an entire town’s worth of people is rendered homeless.

23,000 persons per day are forced to flee their homes, according to a United Nations report. By the numbers, this is akin to the evacuation of entire American towns. Due to conflict or persecution, these persons must rely on aid provided by various domestic and international organizations, placing strain on already weakened local economies and food supplies. The vast majority of these persons – over 80% – are hosted by developing nations.

Not only are local economies suffering as a result of displacement, the burden is also felt by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which logged some 35.8 million persons of concern in 2012. As a reference point, the population of California, the largest state in the U.S, is approximately 38.1 million people. In Pakistan, the number of refugees in relation to economic capacity is 552 persons to every $1 of GDP per capita, an astonishing statistic by our measurements.

In response to displacement concerns in Syria, a state in which 70% Palestinian refugees are displaced by conflict in addition to the Syrians themselves, the Obama administration has authorized an additional $300 million in humanitarian relief funds. This brings the total amount of aid given to Syria to nearly $815 million, making the U.S. the single-largest contributor of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.

These contributions will be used “to help feed, shelter, and provide medical care for children, women, and men affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria,” according to a recent press release from the White House. The move is especially significant for efforts to increase global poverty relief and awareness in U.S. foreign affairs as it represents a clear recognition of an American responsibility to protect people worldwide.

In spite these commendable contributions, there remains a wide discrepancy between the number of refugees being hosted by developing countries and nations more capable of hosting displaced persons. To wit, UNHCR’s recent report  shows that more than half of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate resided in countries where the GDP per capita was below $5,000 in 2012. Pakistan and Iran hosted the largest number of refugees. Clearly, there is a great need for the U.S. and other developed countries to support refugees and the countries that host them.

– Herman Watson

Source: New York Times, UN Refugee Agency, Huffington Post, NBC News, The White House
Photo: NBC News

Poverty_in_Burundi

The conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda was documented by the movie Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle. The movie depicts a Rwandan hotel manager who is caught in the middle of a vicious civil war and protect citizens at his hotel. It highlights the atrocities of the conflict and the lack of aid that Rwandans received during the widespread killing.

Many people do not realize that the Hutu-Tutsi conflict was not exclusive to Rwanda. Burundi, Rwanda’s southern neighbor experience the same conflict at the same time, resulting in the deaths of around 300,000 civilians and the exile or displacement of 1.2 million.

The fighting in Burundi crippled its economy, especially agriculture, and left 80% of Burundians living below the poverty line. Burundi now ranks 185th out of 187 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Most Burundians are small scale farmers trying desperately to recover from the conflict, with high population, drought, illiteracy, and little access to health and education services exacerbating their woes.

However, now that the country is relatively stable, the Burundian government, with support from the U.N. and USAID, has put itself to the task of combating poverty in Burundi. In July 2011 the government launched a “Vision 2025” plan that sets a goal of reducing poverty to 33% by 2025. The government is focusing on four areas to achieve this goal: improving governance and security, promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth, developing human capital, and combating HIV/AIDS.

USAID has been doing its part to combat poverty in Burundi since the conflict. USAID supported policy reforms that have led to the commercialization of coffee in Burundi, bringing significant amounts of money into the country from coffee exports. USAID has also been trying to strengthen Burundi’s agriculture sector by focusing on soil conservation, improved seed varieties, better crop and livestock production, and rehabilitation of precious marshlands.

The horrors portrayed in Hotel Rwanda shocked American audiences everywhere. Poverty in Burundi and Rwanda has to be addressed to promote stability in the countries in order to prevent future conflicts.

 Martin Drake

Source: IFAD, USAID
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sierra_Leone_Conflict_diamonds
The Sierra Leone civil war destroyed the national economy, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. The civil war that ravaged the small west African nation from 1991-2002 was the impetus for a huge displacement of people within Sierra Leone, leading to a downturn in the economy that left almost 75% of the population living in extreme poverty.

Sierra Leone’s main export is diamonds. Diamonds have created a significant wealth gap in Sierra Leone that has benefited the rich and paralyzed the poor for decades. The country’s dependence on this single mineral resource impedes economic growth. In order for Sierra Leone to lift itself out of abject poverty, the economy must diversify. Economic diversification is exceptionally difficult, however, with around 50% of the adult working population working in subsistence agriculture. Luckily, the IMF set up a program in 2010 to deliver $45 million to Sierra Leone through 2013.

Over the last few years, Sierra Leone has developed its offshore oil resources as another source of income. This, however, does not negate the enormous need for international aid to power the development process and prevent increased in inequalit in Sierra Leone. In order for the economy to stabilize, foreign aid must be delivered on a consistent basis and domestic peace must be preserved at all costs.

– Josh Forgét
Source: BBC News, Rural Poverty Portal, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Human Trafficking Movie Project

afghanistan-refugees
As citizens of the United States, we hear a lot about the war in Afghanistan. We hear about what the U.S. is doing, our withdrawal timeline, attacks and progress. What we don’t hear about is how the war has affected Afghan citizens, and what life has been like for them.

Right now in Afghanistan, there is a mass exodus of teenage boys who are fleeing Afghanistan. These Afghan child refugees are headed on a 10,000-mile journey towards Europe, where, if they are lucky enough to live and arrive in Europe, they may be able to seek asylum. Teens are forced to trust in smugglers who transport them in secret compartments in vans and truck, or take them on dangerous water crossings with low survival rates.  Many of the boys who take on this journey die in the process, with estimates as low as 35% of boys making it to Europe.

Additionally, Afghan boys are at risk for sex trafficking on their journey. Many of the boys are sexually abused, or turned into sex slaves by their smugglers. They are powerless to the smugglers, who control their livelihood and safety. Many children may also be diverted into menial jobs as they try to save money to pay smugglers for future legs of their jouney. Boys disappear often, and anonymously. They are incredibly vulnerable and very susceptible to kidnappers.

The deaths and disappearances of these boys are, in part, a result of their vulnerability and poverty. The poorer and less educated the boys, the bigger risk they may suffer. Additionally, some of the children may be experiencing post-traumatic stress from the war-related events that they may have witnessed in Afghanistan. The children are also subject to the constant threat of deportation, as most of them do not have legal status or documentation.

The lack of legal status can have many implications on the children. They could be exposed to organized crime, physical abuse, and child labor, as well as the previously mentioned sex trafficking. In several of the countries through which the boys travel, such as Greece, unaccompanied children are not guaranteed asylum or refugee status. Those children who are caught, deported, and sent back to Afghanistan may be at an even greater risk if returned. The plight of young Afghans is undoubtedly a serious human rights violation and one that should be more widely covered by mainstream media.

– Caitlin Zusy 

Sources: 60 Minutes, 60 Minutes, UNHRC
Photo: The National