Posts

Conflict and Displacement in Yemen
A joint report released in August by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International organization for Migration (IOM) said an exorbitant amount of conflict and displacement in Yemen resulted from civil war — 3,154,572 people were displaced, over two million of whom remain in displacement.

Unfortunately, this is not the first armed struggle the nation has seen. Yemen has ancient roots as the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia but the modern Republic of Yemen is a relatively new state.

It was formed when the communist South Yemen and traditional North Yemen merged in 1990 after years of struggle. There has been plenty of conflict and displacement in Yemen’s 26 years as a nation.

The merger did not ease tensions between the two different groups of people cohabitating the land. A southern separatist movement called for secession in a short-lived 1994 civil war.

Violence erupted once more in 2009 when government troops and rebel forces began fighting in the north in an armed conflict that killed hundreds and displaced over a quarter million people.

Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 inspired a wave of protests that forced then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh to resign. Yemen’s history of unrest and turmoil made it an easily exploited place for militant groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, further destabilizing the already conflicted nation. Yemen lapsed into another civil war in 2014 that rages on despite peace initiatives.

With the rebel Houthis overthrowing the Yemeni government prompting a Saudi-led counteroffensive, the fighting in Yemen has had grave humanitarian consequences. The U.N. designated the humanitarian emergency as severe and complex as those in Iraq, South Sudan and Syria.

“The crisis is forcing more and more people to leave their homes in search of safety,” said Ita Schuette, UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Yemen. The report also added that displacement in Yemen increased by seven percent since April as a result of escalating conflict and worsening humanitarian conditions.

According to the figures displayed in the report, as the conflict continues, the average length of time that people are spending displaced from their homes has increased.

Some 89 percent of refugees have been displaced for ten months or longer. Cumulatively, due to conflict and natural disaster, 8 percent of Yemen’s population remains displaced.

Although the situation looks bleak, conflict and displacement in Yemen should improve. Thankfully, the international community is stepping up to provide assistance. The U.N.’s World Food Program is providing food assistance to some 3 million people through monthly distributions.

The organization is also progressively implementing commodity voucher programs through local suppliers. Wherever there is suffering and conflict, the international community will be there to do what they can to provide food to the hungry and shelter to those who cannot go home.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Tajikistan

Poverty in Tajikistan remains a problem. Tajikistan is frequently cited as the poorest former Soviet republic, with one of the world’s lowest GDPs per capita (ranked 192). While it is a place that Americans do not hear about often, USAID has been busy in the country of just over eight million inhabitants for more than 20 years, almost as long as Tajikistan has been a sovereign nation.

 

Poverty in Tajikistan: Key Facts

 

1. Proportional to GDP, Tajikistan has one of the largest remittance economies in the world.

Due to a scarcity of secure employment opportunities, which contributes greatly to poverty in Tajikistan, more than one million Tajik citizens leave the country searching for work. The money that these Tajiks send home equals more than half of the entire country’s GDP. The vast majority of these migrants—90 percent—travel to Russia.

2. Poor infrastructure stagnates the Tajik economy.

Tajikistan is landlocked and sits in the northwestern Himalayas, one of the most mountainous regions on the planet, making transportation a challenge. Trade with other nations, which is important to the country’s economy, relies on a dilapidated railway system. The diminutive electricity market means energy infrastructure is also lacking. Power shortages and outages are rampant, especially during the winter.

The future for Tajikistan’s infrastructure may, however, be looking up due to foreign investment, which may alleviate some of the poverty in Tajikistan. Recently, Chinese investors funded new road construction in Dushanbe, the capital. Russia and Iran have also invested in hydroelectric plants, including a dam on the Vakhsh River that may become the world’s largest.

3. Tuberculosis is a growing public health problem.

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is disproportionately high in many central Asian countries, including Tajikistan. The country’s healthcare system is ill equipped to respond to this issue, lacking adequate information systems and human resources. Most funds for fighting TB come from international assistance.

MDR-TB is a complicated public health challenge, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with the government and aid groups to improve and monitor Tajikistan’s ability to treat TB and stave off MDR-TB.

4. Most of the population does not have access to clean water.

Nearly 60 percent of Tajik citizens rely on unsanitary water supplies. Many depend on irrigation ditches for drinking water, meaning waterborne diseases are common. Diarrhea is the sixth leading cause of death in children under five.

While these statistics may seem bleak, water quality is a relatively straightforward issue to tackle. USAID has made notable strides in providing better access to clean water, one of its main focuses in Tajikistan. According to its website, USAID has “established 56 community-level water users’ associations,” helping the Tajik weather and water forecasting agency better manage the country’s vast supply of fresh water.

5. The civil war destroyed one out of five schools in the country.

Funding for education decreased drastically after Tajikistan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1992. The following five years of fighting destroyed or damaged a significant portion of the country’s schools. Naturally, such collateral destruction has contributed to the precarious state of the education system.

Since the fighting, the country has either struggled to or failed to revive school systems. According to the latest reports from UNICEF, schools are overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed, with many teachers working triple shifts. Furthermore, dropout rates are high, especially for girls.

The state of Tajikistan’s education system leaves much to be desired. However, organizations like USAID and UNICEF have partnered with the Tajik government. They are determined to nurture this fragile system to a point where it can sustain itself, mainly by focusing on preventing dropouts and improving equity and access.

In many ways, Tajikistan seems to lag behind its neighbors in the Central Asian region. With a strong memory of war and political upheaval, coupled with uncompromising geography, the country has struggled to develop.

But international aid organizations have shown great ambition and, partnered with the Tajik government, achieved tangible successes in reducing poverty in Tajikistan and its burdens. Likewise, international investment from the private sector suggests promise and hope for a society that has much to gain.

Charlie Tomb

Photo: Pixabay