Humanitarian Crisis in GazaIn early July 2019, presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren told a group of activists that “she would push to end the Israeli government’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza,” according to Mike Brest of the Washington Examiner. Senator Warren’s comments stray from her record as a vocal Israeli and AIPAC supporter, but her comments are important to the 2020 democratic presidential campaign as she is one of the, if not the first, democratic candidates to mention and wish to assist the Gaza Strip. As the 2020 presidential campaign moves forward, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention.

The Gaza Strip Blockade

Since 2007, Israel and its chief Arab ally, Egypt, have enforced a complete air, land and water blockade of the Gaza Strip in response to the Strip’s controversial election results. In Gaza’s first major elections, Hamas, a U.S. State Department recognized terrorist organization since 1997, won control of the Strip causing Israel to immediately impose sanctions. After Hamas forced its political rivals out, Fatah, Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade of Gaza to prevent further hostile actions from the Gazan government. In the 12 years since its implementation, “more than 1,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the ongoing blockade,” according to Al Jazeera in early 2018.

According to Al Jazeera, “Gazans continue to face a desperate situation because of the blockade with water and electricity shortages as well as a lack of medicines and doctors.” The heinous conditions in Gaza have resulted in the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an accredited independent organization, to declare the Strip “the world’s largest open-air prison” in mid-2018. The NRC also reported that “a 2012 U.N. report predicted [the Gaza Strip] would be unlivable by 2020” for the predicted population of 2.1 million Palestinian. Despite the U.N. report, the conditions have not improved in Gaza as “1.9 million people are confined [by the blockade], 84 percent require humanitarian aid, [and] 41 percent have too little food,” according to the NRC.

The United States and the Gaza Strip

Although the controversial blockade has continued for over a decade, U.S. politicians have rarely discussed the horrific conditions in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. has largely ignored the situation in Gaza, which has allowed it to perpetuate and worsen, but Senator Warren’s recent comments could point towards a possible advancement. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and some U.S. politicians could be bringing more light to the crisis.

The 2012 U.N. report on the Gaza Strip made its results very clear by stating that the Strip would be “unlivable by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade.” For the situation in Gaza to improve, Israel and Egypt must end the blockade, or at the very least loosen it. The United States is one of the only nations that holds the power to bring improvement to the region due to its special relationship with Israel and Egypt.

According to USAID, the United States gives almost $370 million in aid to Egypt and nearly $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually. America’s close and special relationship with both countries give the situation in Gaza hope. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and if more U.S. politicians speak against the horrible environment in the Gaza Strip, the additional pressure could potentially ease the blockade and improve the region. The devil is in the details when discussing the Palestinian-Isreali conflict, but improvement is possible if the humanitarian crisis in Gaza receives the attention it deserves.

– Zachery Abunemeh
Photo: Flickr

news anchors in the middle east
Increasing support for women who experience suppression from gender inequality in many aspects of society has been a focus of many aid organizations and support groups across the globe. According to USAID, “More than half a billion women have joined the world’s work force over the past 30 years, and they make up 40 percent of the agriculture labor force.”

Although some of these groups and organizations focus on specific issues, gender equality aid has been instrumental in reducing the gender equality gap that suppress so many women.

News and Aid Organizations

Various programs (not limited to those helping news anchors in the Middle East) have been extremely important in supporting young women as well as promoting education. In 2016, approximately $253 million in gender equality aid was used to assist Afghanistan with leveling the gender equality gap that limited capable women.

In addition to aid organizations, news organizations that support women help reduce the gender equality gap as well as confront the numerous challenges faced by female reporters.

Challenges for Women in the Workplace

Debroah Amos, a reporter for ABC 2000, discussed some of the difficulties she faced as a reporter and news anchor in the Middle East:

“I faced a lot of challenges in my work: lack of training on how to deal with violence during field coverage, we work without personal protective equipment. Also, the Egyptian journalism syndicate didn’t give us legal protection. Also for me as a female, it was hard to deal with some Salafis during their demonstrations, as they believe it’s not permitted to talk with women,” she said.

News organizations promoting successful female newscasters and aid organizations supporting women via global funding projects is a powerful and influential combination. As a result of such efforts, women and news anchors in the Middle East are beginning to see changes in their work opportunities. As women advocate for themselves and use these resources to their advantage, true and revolutionary change continues to materialize.

Five News Organizations Supporting Female News Anchors in the Middle East

  1. ZANTV: The first female news station in Afghanistan gives women interested in news a chance to exercise their reporting skills and work in a field they are interested in.
  2. Al JAZEERA: This organization focuses on news in the Middle East, U.S. and Canada. The organization welcomes female reporters to cover topics on the ground.
  3. AL MONITOR: “The Pulse of the Middle East”– This news organization covers topics in Egypt, The Gulf, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, North Africa, Palestine, Syria and Turkey.
  4. TIME: The organization covers political topics across the world. One woman, identified by Al Monitor as one of “16 Women Journalists to Watch in the Middle East,” reports for TIME as well as several other publications about numerous topics in the Middle East.
  5. NPR: Debroah Amos reported on several topics in the Middle East and won a group award in 2004 for coverage in Iraq.

There are several organizations and programs across the world working to reduce the gender inequality gap. A few of these include USAID, Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, The “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy” in Australia, The Global Fund for Women and the National Organization for Women. In addition to these organizations, the International Women’s Media Fund (IWMF) also recognizes influential women in media.

With such powerful advocates in their corner, the push for increased gender equity and the presence of female news anchors in the Middle East is a feasible, opportunistic and exemplary reality.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Pakistan
The organization DoctHers, is working to provide more accessible health care in Pakistan. DoctHers uses cutting-edge technology to connect female doctors to those in Pakistan who have been historically underserved — namely, other women and children. Female patients in conservative areas often feel uncomfortable working with male doctors, and that is where this life changing organization hopes to step in.

DoctHers works by using a teleconference or video-chat software to put female doctors in touch with clinics in areas in need. Working with the clinic nurse, the doctor is able to check symptoms and prescribe necessary treatment. DoctHers is currently operating eight telemedicine centers across Pakistan. The goal is for the organization to empower Pakistani women in medicine, who often face severe cultural and social backlash. In many cases, these women are forced to stop working after marriage or pregnancy.

This was the case with two of DoctHer’s cofounders, Dr. Sara Khurram and Dr. Iffat Zafar. “My motivation was that I was terminated from my residency as I conceived the baby,” said Khurram in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Health care in developing countries like Pakistan is a serious issue. According to a study prepared for The Annual Review of Economics, 15 million people die of preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, many of them in impoverished nations where health care is lacking.

The study added, “In the absence of any proactive health behavior to prevent or treat these diseases, the likelihood of a child in a poor country living to the age of 5 and of an adult living to the age of 50 is significantly lower than in a rich country.” This data is augmented for women and children. The World Health Organization states that women in Pakistan continue to have limited access to reproductive health services and face relatively high-rates of pregnancy related illness.

By using technology to deliver more accessible health care in Pakistan, DoctHers hopes to reduce this number and de-stigmatize women’s reproductive health.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Flickr

Earlier this month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended the Annual World Economic Forum on Africa; on the same trip, he visited Nigeria, Kenya, Angola and Ethiopia. Kegiang’s trip was yet another illustration of China’s deepening economic integration and development throughout Africa.

In recent years, Chinese investment in Africa has increased dramatically. China has invested large amounts of credit and aid to Africa out of economic interest in the nation, primarily exploitation of the continent’s many natural resources as well as energy development, among others.

In 2012, China donated $200 million to construct the sleek new African Union headquarters building in Ethiopia, creating a very literal illustration of favorable Chinese-African relations. As of this month, the Chinese investment in Africa has reached $30 billion in the continent in credit, as well as $5 billion in development funding assistance. Additionally, trade between the two entities has reached a whopping $150 billion.

This intimate economic integration and political entwinement alarms many across the globe, as China’s development in Africa has been (and will likely continue to be be) accompanied by concerns regarding labor ethics and environmental consequences. Others have expressed worries about terrorism and its potential spread as African leaders turn away from American diplomacy and instead focus on Chinese economic integration. Three primary consequences of this relationship are of concern:


1. Environmental Concerns

China has a notoriously unfavorable reputation when it comes to unethical labor standards and a disregard for environmental pollution and emissions. With exponential growth and thousands of laborers in newly developed African factories, how will the latter concerns be addressed, if at all? Will they pay closer attention to human rights concerns in foreign turf?


2. Potential spread of terrorist growth

U.S. diplomacy with Africa has included much counter-terrorism rhetoric and initiative. Secretary of State John Kerry has performed multinational tours of the continent on several occasions, explicitly asserting a counter-terrorist agenda. If African leaders embrace Chinese diplomacy and turn a blind eye toward U.S. efforts, experts predict that such efforts will result in more leniency in counter-terrorism efforts.


3. Human rights regression

In an Al-Jazeera article, some consider U.S.-Africa relations to be quite critical. Writer Abdullahi Halakhe states “African leaders’ uncritical embrace of China to spite unequal relations with the West could roll back the modest progress toward democracy, good governance and improvement in human rights.” In other words, some believe that China’s policies of “noninterference” in foreign nations’ domestic affairs is more appealing to African leaders and might result in backwards progress in the human rights arena, against the efforts the U.S. has concerted in conditional policies with leaders.

Arielle Swett

Sources: Aljazeera America, Reuters
Photo: The Chine Africa Project

Does International Aid Help Or Not?
In the never-ending debate about whether international aid helps or not, Al-Jazeera’s Counting the Cost gets four experts’ insight. Will Ruddick, a young scholar at the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability who has spent time in Kenya, argues that such resource-rich countries might not need as much as 300 million dollars in food aid every year. He argues that it’s not the aid itself, it’s the Western economic model which has been proven inefficient when it comes to international aid and development.

Ruddick thinks that a new economic model is needed, one that’s similar to the Swiss model, where there are monetary innovations to reach the goals of sustainable development. He says that micro-finance lending and entrepreneurial models are causing more social stratification thereby amounting to more debt. Ruddick suggests policies that move to something that creates more networks and communities, an implementation that involves the local affected and recipient communities.

In Keyna, there is a wide dependence on anti-retroviral drugs for HIV as opposed to development. Ruddick argues that there should be more of a push from international aid organizations to help these people develop the needed drugs locally; aid and development aren’t necessarily linked. Networks must be encouraged and created to help local people help each other. According to Ruddick, Kenya is exporting 3 billion dollars worth of food to Europe, and yet every year, with the consistency of food aid to Kenya, people are still underfed and starving.

In Jerusalem, Palestine, Dr. Nora Murad argues that “aid” is subsidizing the Israeli occupation that it’s allowing the Israeli army to occupy cost-free because every time a road, a school, or a hospital is destroyed, the international community pays for it rather than have the Israeli army replace it. Thus, in places like Palestine, the international community needs to politically intervene to better implement any aid that goes to Palestine. “The Israeli occupation costs the Palestinian economy 6.8 billion dollars per year,” Dr. Murad argues. She also argues that recipients of aid, in her case she’s talking about Palestinian communities specifically, should have control over their own development resources and be able to make development decisions.

Alan Duncan, the British minister of state in the department of international development, argues that they don’t deal directly with untrusted governments, they focus on the “real economies” of “real people,” that they are the “engine of development,” and such a development is precisely what his department is pushing for. He explains that the private sector is so important and that the existent aid model isn’t flawed, and that they “underpin the basic building blocks of an agricultural economy,” to help the underdeveloped internal economy of Africa. In regards to Palestine, he says that the kind of aid that goes to Palestine is to equip the Palestinian Authority to be a future government, the development is thus working in such specific political circumstances.

The head of development finance and public services at Oxfam, Emma Seery, comments by saying that her organization is more focused on development than aid, they focus on policies in an effort to put an end to extreme inequality. So the question is this: we know that foreign aid helps, and that poor countries are appreciative of this gift but are the right policies being implemented to sustain growth and development? Is there a need for a new more efficient economic model?

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Al Jazeera
Photo: Google