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Worst Humanitarian Crises
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) ranks the world’s top 20 countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises annually in order to identify and aid the countries that need it most. For the 2020 Watchlist, the top five countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises are Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela. All five were also in the top 10 countries in 2018’s watchlist.

Top 5 Countries Experiencing the Worst Humanitarian Crises

  1. Yemen: For the second year in a row, Yemen is at the top of the list as the worst humanitarian crisis. Most of Yemen’s troubles are due to the civil war that began in 2015. With failed peace talks and a shaky government, the Houthi insurgents, who began the civil war over high fuel prices and a corrupt government, and the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf forces continue to fight. The ongoing conflict has greatly destabilized the country, its infrastructure and its ability to provide services to its people. Around 80% of Yemen’s population (more than 24 million people) need humanitarian assistance. Attacks on infrastructure have further weakened the ability to provide healthcare, education, food, fuel, clean water and sanitation. More than 1.2 million Yemenis face severe food insecurity and around 68% of Yemenis do not have access to healthcare. In 2019, cholera began to spread through Yemen, placing even more pressure on the extremely limited and unprepared healthcare system. The outbreak eventually killed more than 3,700 people.
  2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: The DRC has been in a state of crisis for nearly 30 years. It began with conflict and corruption fueling under-development and instability in the country. This lead to 17% of the population needing humanitarian aid. Fighting between the military and different ethnic militias is common. Most recently the fighting has been in the East and Central DRC. These internal conflicts have displaced 4.5 million Congolese. These people had to flee their homes and agricultural livelihoods, which also drives up food insecurity. Around 15.6 million Congolese are experiencing severe food insecurity. In 2019, the DRC had both the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history and a measles outbreak. Measles alone has killed more than 4,000 people.
  3. Syria: The home to the largest displacement crisis in the world, Syria has been at war since 2015. As a result, 65% of the Syrian population requires aid. The complex civil war has dilapidated the infrastructure, leaving 54% of health facilities and 50% of sewage systems are non-functional. The conflict has displaced more than 12.7 million Syrians. More than 6 million people are internally displaced and around 5.7 million Syrians are refugees in Europe or neighboring countries.
  4. Nigeria: Nigeria faces internal conflicts in the north, a cholera outbreak and high levels of food insecurity. Around 7.7 million Nigerians need aid, mainly from the northern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. There is a significant difference between the developed areas, like the cities of Lagos and Abuja, and the less developed areas in the north. The north has experienced conflict with Boko Haram, a terrorist group, and its splinter faction, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). Operating in Nigeria’s North-East region since 2009, Boko Haram and ISWAP present a dangerous threat to Nigeria’s military. As a result, local militias and vigilantes responded against these groups. Due to the conflicts between the terrorist groups and the militias, 540,000 Nigerians are internally displaced and 41,000 people traveled north into Niger. On top of the ongoing fighting, endemic diseases, such as cholera and Lassa fever, are spreading throughout the country.
  5. Venezuela: Due to the near-collapse of Venezuela’s economy and the continued political turmoil, basic systems that provide food, clean water and medicine are in short supply. Hyperinflation drove up the prices of basic goods and services, leaving households without enough money to purchase food. At least 80% of Venezuelans are experiencing food insecurity. Additionally, only 18% of people have consistent access to clean water. Without healthcare, people are unguarded against disease. With 94% of households in poverty, Venezuelans are compelled to leave the country. By the end of 2020, the IRC estimates that 5.5 million Venezuelans will emigrate. This will cause the largest internal displacement in Latin America and the second-largest refugee crisis in the world behind Syria.

Help on the Ground

There are many NGOs working to alleviate the situation in these countries. Organizations like the Red Cross, IRC and Doctors Without Borders among many others, have been working for years in conflict-heavy countries. For example, Doctors Without Borders set up mobile health clinics to provide maternal health, vaccinations and treat non-communicable diseases in Syria. The International Committee of the Red Cross increased its budget to $24.6 million in 2019 to ramp up efforts to improve “health, water and sanitation” in Venezuela. The International Rescue Committee brought health, safety and education to 2.7 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo 2019. It provided healthcare, supplies and sanitation aid to the area.

David Miliband, the president and CEO of IRC, stated, “It’s vital that we do not abandon these countries when they need us most, and that governments around the world step up funding to these anticipated crises before more lives are lost — and the bill for humanitarian catastrophe rises.” These five worst humanitarian crises in 2020 show the world that there is much work still needed. With continued aid and funding from all governments, the U.N. and its agencies and NGOs, millions of people can receive the help that they so desperately need.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

Yemen's Healthcare System
For people across the globe, the battle against COVID-19 can feel hopeless. Developed countries like the U.S. have struggled to contain the virus; COVID-19 has infected over 5 million Americans since March 2020. However, extensive healthcare resources have helped developed immensely. Ventilators and ICU beds, access to proper sanitation, and the technology to work from home have left many unscathed and have allowed many to make a full recovery. Therefore, it is important to remember the countries that do not have these resources. For example, COVID-19 has been particularly devastating in Yemen, in part, due to Yemen’s healthcare system. 

Conflict, Cholera and COVID-19

Yemen has been enduring a civil war for over five years. The main conflicts are between Houthi rebels and the government of President Hadi. In addition to claiming over 100,000 lives, the violence has exacerbated already daunting public health statistics. Currently, about 50% of the country’s medical facilities are nonfunctional. The U.N. has reported that Yemen is enduring the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with about 80% of the population (or 24.1 million people) in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. In addition, the country is enduring the worst modern-day cholera crisis, reporting approximately 110,000 cases in April 2020.

With the backdrop of the ongoing civil war, Yemen’s healthcare system is unable to support the country. Yemen has 500 ventilators and 700 ICU beds for a population of over 28 million. The Associated Press reported that there are no doctors in 18% of 333 Yemeni districts. Although the country has reported one of the lowest transmission rates in the Middle East, this is largely due to an inability to test. In fact, the country has processed fewer than 1,000 tests; this is about 31 tests per 1 million citizens. There is also evidence of purposeful under testing. The Houthi Ministry of Public Health and Population stated that reporting statistics have negative effects on the psychological health and immune systems of citizens.

Hospitals have seen a 40% mortality rate and have resorted to admitting patients based on age and odds of survival, reported Marc Schakal, Doctors Without Borders’ Deputy Operations Manager for Yemen. The country’s health system has “collapsed” according to the UNHCR. Lise Grande, the U.N. head of humanitarian operations in Yemen reported that the COVID-19 death toll could “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years.”

COVID-19’s Impact Beyond the Healthcare System

The virus has also driven up the prices of food necessities, adding to the high toll of families that rely on aid to survive day-to-day. The U.N. has been attempting to help, but with a lack of funds, it is only possible to provide half-rations for the 8 million-plus hungry people. Hunger has hit women and children the hardest; over 2 million children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The lack of international aid in the face of such a tragedy is saddening. Millions of people are essentially being left to die. The United States cut $73 million of aid towards Yemen in March 2020, just as the virus was becoming a global issue. The statistics clearly show it will take a greater effort from the global community to improve Yemen’s outlook.

How to Help

As Sara Beysolow Nyant, UNICEF’s representative to Yemen, expressed, without urgent funding, “The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children in a nation devastated by conflict, disease, and economic collapse, simply do not matter.” Unfortunately, most countries have focused on containing the virus internally. Hopefully, some of the international community will turn its attention to the countries in the greatest need.

For individuals looking to help, donations to groups like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam will provide aid. Additionally, calling and emailing Congress can also have a profound impact.

Abigail Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Polio Eradicated in Africa
On August 25, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared the African continent free of wild poliovirus after reports of zero cases since August 2016. This achievement comes after decades of ambitious initiatives that distributed vaccinations to the African population in an effort to stop polio’s spread. In what many are describing as a “momentous milestone,” the news of polio eradication in Africa provides hope that other preventable diseases will one day be eliminated too.

What is Polio?

Polio, the disease that the poliovirus causes, is a highly contagious and potentially deadly illness commonly spread through feces. While one in four people infected merely experience a flu-like illness or are asymptomatic, polio presents serious symptoms to vulnerable populations, especially children.

Severe symptoms that people associate with polio include paresthesia, meningitis and paralysis. Paralysis, the most dangerous and most well-known, occurs in roughly one out of every 200 cases. The muscle and nerve damage that these side effects cause can permanently disable or even kill an infected person if vital organs, like the lungs, become paralyzed. Even after recovering, many younger patients suffer post-polio syndrome (PSP) which may cause muscle pain, weakness or paralysis in adulthood.

In the early ’90s, an estimated 75,000 African children became paralyzed each year due to polio. Due to Africa’s poor healthcare system and sanitation infrastructure, preventing the disease’s spread proved difficult. There is currently no known cure or treatment for polio, making it especially dangerous for children in poor regions suffering other medical issues like malnutrition. However, through multinational and multi-organizational efforts, polio rates began to decline as immunization rates rose.

How Did Africa Eradicate Polio?

The fight toward polio eradication in Africa began with the creation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988, followed by Nelson Mandela’s Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign in 1996. These efforts aimed to combine resources from governments, U.N. bodies and organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to sponsor massive surveillance and immunization campaigns throughout the continent.

The combined efforts of these groups brought nearly 9 billion polio vaccines to Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Braving wilderness and war zones including territory held by the terrorist group Boko Haram, 2 million volunteers from organizations like Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and Gavi immunized even the most isolated African villages.

The report of the most recent wild polio case was in August 2016 in northeastern Nigeria, within Boko Haram territory. However, the Nigerian government and outside supporters were able to quell the outbreak’s spread; since then, zero wild polio cases have occurred in Africa. This years-long feat allowed the World Health Organization to declare polio in Africa eradicated in 2020, a major feat for the continent’s residents and healthcare systems.

What Now?

Estimates determine that international efforts to defeat wild poliovirus in Africa have averted 1.8 million cases and 180,000 deaths. However, these figures only apply to the wild poliovirus—they fail to account for vaccine-derived polio.

There are two main types of polio vaccinations: oral and injected. Because the oral polio vaccination is much cheaper, it is most commonly used for widespread polio immunization campaigns in developing countries. However, this vaccine relies on a weakened version of the poliovirus to immunize rather than the inactive virus utilized by the injected vaccine. This disparity has led to occasional outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio in some African nations.

Currently, GPEI and its associated NGOs in Africa are working to curb any vaccine-derived polio outbreaks while frequently updating vaccinations for vulnerable children. There are only two remaining countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, that have reported cases of wild polio in the past 12 months. However, by following Africa’s lead and adopting immunization initiatives, there is hope that wild polio can subside permanently in all countries.

– Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr

South African PovertyThe battle against poverty has always been a difficult one, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented many new challenges. Actions currently being taken to combat South African poverty and COVID-19 have proven that, with new options and renewed commitments, there is still much that can be done to alleviate poverty. Impoverished people around the world need aid now more than ever.

An Ongoing Struggle

Historically, South Africa has struggled to aid its most economically vulnerable citizens. According to the most recent government analysis, almost half of the adult population is living under the poverty line—an alarming figure. It seems apparent that this South African poverty crisis would be seen on nearly every level of society. Sadly, this widespread poverty has had a notable impact on which necessary resources are available to people. While electricity infrastructure is fairly widespread, between 28% and 30% of poor households lack access to water and sanitation services. As is relatively common in cases of inequality, the most vulnerable frequently lack access to basic necessities, making their struggles far more urgent.

COVID-19 Developments

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is poised to exacerbate South African poverty. The World Bank has predicted that while the pandemic will increase poverty worldwide, the hardest-hit region will be Sub-Saharan Africa. Although South Africa has been relatively spared from the worst of COVID-19 on a health level, the poverty-inducing effects of the pandemic are daunting—it is projected that some 23 million South Africans will be pushed into poverty in 2020. Beyond the immediate tragedy, this decline will present new challenges. In order to protect them, governments will need to find new ways to offer meaningful support throughout the crisis.

Innovation Brings Hope

Fortunately, the government of South Africa has begun to take steps to properly aid its impoverished citizens during this time. They have rolled out a new, easily accessible digital tool called HealthCheck in order to provide self-assessment resources. Members of the public can download the program, which will ask them a few simple questions and then provide a COVID-19 risk prediction along with a pertinent guideline and suggested actions.

While HealthCheck is designed to be available to the entirety of the South African populace, it aids low-income South Africans in particular. Although only a third of the population uses smartphones, feature phones enjoy more widespread use, so a lack of hardware is not necessarily an issue. For many impoverished people in South Africa—and across the world—receiving the proper healthcare needed to determine a risk of infection may be difficult or outright impossible.

Partnerships Increase Access

To further alleviate this issue, the South African government has coordinated with network operators MTN, Vodacom and Telekom, to have facilitate free access to the USSD line. This way, South Africans who could not typically afford cellular or wi-fi services can make use of the HealthCheck tool. As a matter of fact, they have—authorities have reported that so far, over one million members of the public have used HealthCheck.

The digital tool has been utilized in conjunction with NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.  The NGO has worked to fill the gap in fighting South African poverty by creating impromptu field hospitals in otherwise-ignored townships. In Khayelitsha, it has opened up 70 additional beds in a basketball arena in order to serve as many people as possible in the area. This was part of a broader government plan to have over 1,400 extra beds ready as needed. Providing aid such as this is an important part of the battle against poverty.

Just a Start

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the growth of the continental African economy, and threatens its growing middle class. Across the entire continent, nearly eight million people are predicted to fall into poverty, in many cases due to the lack of a social safety net. By providing essential resources, NGOs like Doctors Without Borders are working to limit the economic burden that falls on the South African populace.

While it’s just a start in terms of supporting the impoverished population, these initiatives have clearly provided accessible ways for low-income citizens to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. There are still many hurdles to overcome in the fight against South African poverty, but these recent initiatives have shown that we can still work to effectively aid the poor.

Aidan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Central African RepublicViolent conflict that has surged since 2007 in the Central African Republic (CAR) has created challenges for the nation’s healthcare system. Humanitarian organizations, which provide the majority of the health services available, have continued working to provide adequate healthcare despite threats of violence from militia groups.

Providing Healthcare Amid Conflict

The CAR is facing a humanitarian emergency. Even after the introduction of a peace agreement among the 14 armed groups in the country in 2019, attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers persist. It is estimated that out of more than 4.6 million people living in the CAR, 2.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. NGOs have not stopped attempting to provide services to those displaced and hurting from the violence.

There are inadequate numbers of trained health workers in the CAR, as reported by the World Health Organization. Therefore, it has become a primary concern to increase the number of healthcare providers. This year, in addition to providing water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has begun training 500 individuals to respond to the protection and healthcare needs of vulnerable communities in the CAR.

After the conflict damaged or destroyed 34% of the CAR’s healthcare infrastructure, NGOs are focused on supporting the remaining hospitals and clinics. ALIMA, an NGO committed to providing quality healthcare services to those in need, has been working in the CAR since 2013. They have provided nutritional and medical care in the Bimbo and Boda health districts and outside the nation’s capital of Bangui. Pregnant women and children under the age of five have received free healthcare through ALIMA. Just in 2016, the organization carried out more than 17,320 prenatal consultations and treated close to 75,000 children for malaria.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) began its involvement in CAR in 2006. The health services provided by this organization target the mental health consequences of gender-based violence. Psychosocial support to women survivors of violence has remained a priority. The IRC also implemented discussion groups aimed to expand gender-based violence awareness and share strategies for prevention.

Combating Infectious Disease

Malaria, HIV and tuberculosis are a few of the prominent diseases that require intense prevention and treatment in the CAR. Doctors Without Borders has been one of the principal actors in delivering these services, treating nearly 547,000 malaria cases in 2018. The organization generated community-based groups in multiple cities to pick up antiretroviral medications needed to treat HIV, while also working to decentralize HIV and AIDS treatment in the city of Carnot. UNICEF has given additional HIV screening to pregnant women during prenatal consultations, and those who tested positive were promptly placed on antiretroviral treatment.

On Jan. 24, 2020, the Ministry of Health declared there to be a measles epidemic in the CAR; cases had been on the rise since the previous year. Between January 2019 and February 2020, there were 7,626 suspected measles cases. A significant public health response has begun to target the spread, including the development of vaccination campaigns, an increase in epidemiological surveillance and the distribution of free medical supplies.

CAR has been impacted by the current coronavirus pandemic, as the country has recorded nearly 4,000 cases as of July 3. UNICEF and partners have been able to provide free essential care, sanitation services and psychological support.

The Need for Humanitarian Assistance

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a major contributor to humanitarian aid in the CAR. It was with the financial assistance of USAID in the 2019 fiscal year that the IRC and the NRC were able to provide healthcare resources for risk prevention. The preservation of humanitarian funding to the CAR has proven to be crucial, as conflict has further weakened the healthcare system.

Humanitarian organizations have made significant progress in recent years to combat the spread of infectious disease and provide more widespread healthcare in the Central African Republic. There is a need to expand these efforts and improve quality of life during the nation’s continued fight for peace.

Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Niger
About 20% of people in Niger are food insecure due to a growing population, regional conflict and environmental challenges. Though that percentage is rising, international organizations and governments are finding innovative ways to end hunger in Niger.

Threats to Food Security in Niger

According to the World Bank, Niger’s population is increasing annually by 3.8%, well above the average for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with a large number of refugees from countries like Mali and Nigeria, an extremely high birth rate is driving Niger’s population growth and ultimately causing food resources to become scarce.

As a result of the conflicts on the borders of Mali and in the Lake Chad Basin, an influx of refugees has migrated to Niger. Further, these regional conflicts have caused widespread displacement among Nigerien citizens domestically, resulting in a major displacement crisis. According to the Norweigan Refugee Council, Niger’s displacement crisis is severe and worsening from the lack of international aid and media coverage. Because food resources are scarce, this displacement crisis is intensifying hunger in Niger.

In addition to the upsurge in Niger’s population, environmental challenges pose a threat to food security. Niger experiences an annual dry or “lean,” season where a lack of rainfall limits crop production and thus lowers the availability of food. A dry season is regular and Niger’s people expect it; however, in the past 20 years, rainfall and temperature have become increasingly irregular, causing more severe food shortages. Nigerians are concerned that desertification and rising global temperatures will only extend and intensify the dry season, disrupting the livelihoods of the majority of rural Nigerien households that rely predominantly on agriculture to survive.

Although food insecurity affects all types of Nigerien communities, it more heavily affects two demographic groups: women and children. Women and children in Niger are more likely to experience malnourishment, which leads to higher rates of anemia. According to the World Food Programme, estimates determined that 73% of Nigerien children under the age of 5 and 46% of Nigerien women are anemic.

The International Community’s Role in Ending Hunger in Niger

Countries like the United States are supporting programs like the World Food Programme, Mercy Corps and Doctors Without Borders to relieve both the immediate and long-term effects of food insecurity in Niger. Each organization takes unique approaches to end hunger in Niger.

The World Food Programme, for instance, focuses on land rehabilitation programs that provide food and financial aid to families who are trying to recover unproductive farmland. The hope is that healthy land will allow agriculture in Niger to be prolific in the future.

Mercy Corps works with mostly Nigerien citizens on projects that encourage people in Niger to diversify their livelihoods in order to ensure that families have several opportunities to earn income in the event that climatic shocks should continue to stunt the agricultural industry. It helped more than 130,000 people in Niger in 2018.

While the World Food Programme and Mercy Corps focus largely on developing a self-sufficient Nigerien economy, Doctors Without Borders works to alleviate the immediate consequences of hunger in Niger by treating acute malnutrition, especially in children. The organization provided 225 families with relief kits in Tillabéri.

While regional conflict, a rapidly growing population and unpredictable weather further food insecurity in Niger, the international community is seeking a multidimensional solution to stimulate the Nigerien economy, end hunger in Niger and help communities flourish.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Flickr

measles in democratic republic of congoThe Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a measles outbreak in June 2019. Since then, more than 310,000 have been affected by this epidemic. Measles is an extremely contagious and airborne disease that can cause rashes, fevers and coughing. The virus is especially dangerous for children. Most developed countries can combat measles through vaccinations, but developing countries aren’t able to fully eradicate and achieve a herd immunity of a sizeable population majority, leading to constant outbreaks.

How COVID-19 is Affecting the Situation

Due to COVID-19, more than 117 million children could not receive their measles vaccine following the halt of vaccination campaigns. Measles may kill more people in developing countries than COVID-19 if outbreaks continue. At least 6,500 children have already died from measles in the DRC. Most world leaders are focusing on COVID-19 rather than the vaccine-preventable diseases that could potentially wreak havoc on developing nations. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently leading the world in the highest numbers of measles cases. This trend is likely to continue without significant aid and the continuation of vaccination campaigns. The DRC also has an incredibly weak healthcare system, so it greatly relies on NGOs and foreign aid to administer vaccines & life-saving medicines to the country.

Other Diseases in the DRC

In addition to measles, the DRC is currently combating cholera, polio, COVID-19 and Ebola. “On June 1, 2020, the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared its eleventh Ebola outbreak.” This is before the tenth outbreak was declared over on June 25, 2020; however, WHO has stated that these two outbreaks are separate. Due to the limited resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this outbreak will be harder to contain than previous outbreaks.

In the past, multiple Ebola outbreaks have drawn more attention than the measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, COVID-19 is drawing more attention than measles. However, all three diseases need to be dealt with alongside the other diseases harming the DRC. During an Ebola outbreak in earlier months, measles was overlooked, which led to a resurgence. Measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must receive the attention necessary to combat it. In addition to the disease itself, the DRC is also suffering from malnutrition, food insecurity and economic uncertainty. All of these factors make the population more vulnerable to other diseases, particularly children.

How To Help

The best way to help combat measles in the DRC is to ensure vaccination campaigns can start again. An increase in foreign aid will help the nation reach this goal. The DRC needs to achieve 95% vaccination to recover, but that goal seems incredibly unlikely due to the current COVID-19 panic. With the majority of the world also focused on COVID-19, it is unlikely that the DRC will receive all the international aid they require at this time. An additional $40 million will be needed on top of the $27.6 million received to successfully fight measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Organizations like Doctors Without Borders are continuously working to fight measles outbreaks in DRC. As of June 2020, the organization has succeeded in vaccinating 82,000 children after “three back-to-back campaigns.” Doctors Without Borders cautions the world that measles cannot be ignored even with the current COVID-19 crisis. They are taking extra precautions during this time to reduce the risk of co-infection.

While COVID-19 is an important and urgent issue, it is imperative that leaders continue to send help to those abroad struggling with the fall-outs of poverty whenever possible. Measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one example of how important foreign assistance and vaccination campaigns are in saving lives in developing countries.

– Jacquelyn Burrer
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in Yemen
Today, Yemen is experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The violent conflict is between the Yemeni government, which has backing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Houthi rebels. This conflict has killed thousands of Yemenis, including women and children, since 2014. The war has torn Yemen apart, with more than 20 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and 10 million at risk of famine. Additionally, there is the general disappearance of public services, a shattered economy, abusive security forces and broken institutions. Humanitarian aid in Yemen is crucial, with 80% of Yemenis in need, necessitating a staggering international effort to save the country.

Economic strife and a lack of governance have exacerbated this humanitarian catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of households have no steady source of income. With a Saudi-led import restriction, access to the country via ports and airports is nearly nonexistent, so resources like fuel and general aid have struggled to reach those in need. The Houthis have also inhibited the flow of aid, with the U.N. accusing them of stealing food from U.N. food supplies. This issue is multifaceted, and a lack of effective governance and aid management has left millions of Yemenis to suffer. There are organizations working to provide humanitarian aid in Yemen, despite the obstacles and risks that this conflict has created. Here are three organizations providing humanitarian aid in Yemen.

3 Organizations Providing Humanitarian Aid in Yemen

  1. Yemeni-Americans established the organization Yemen Aid in 2016 with the sole mission of providing aid to Yemenis, no matter their identity or beliefs regarding the conflict. Yemen Aid provides food and medical assistance, promotes water and shelter access and assists in general advocacy efforts. Food baskets are the organization’s primary form of food assistance, providing items like wheat flour, kidney beans, vegetable oil, sugar and iodized salt. Yemen Aid provides support for cities throughout the country, also providing resources like goats, sustainability training, rice-soy meals and supplies to respond to natural disasters. As for medical aid, in April 2020, the organization distributed over $2 million worth of supplies to hospitals that serve 2 million patients annually. It has supported water access by building wells, raising awareness about good hygiene practices and aiding the establishment of a camp for refugees, complete with bathrooms, clean water access and solar power. This organization is one of many taking on the challenge of providing humanitarian aid in Yemen. Its efforts show just how many issues require staunch support to save Yemenis caught in the conflict.
  2. As the primary food assistance branch of the U.N., the largest project of the World Food Programme is in Yemen. The World Food Programme (WFP) tries to feed 12 million Yemenis each month. According to the organization, more than 1 million women and 2 million children are in need of treatment for acute malnutrition. The organization already supports 1.1 million women and children under the age of 5 each month, but WFP aims to expand this outreach to more people suffering from acute malnutrition. WFP provides aid primarily through direct food distribution and food vouchers, with a family of six getting monthly supplies of wheat flour, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt. The organization has a system to provide $12 per person, per month, to beneficiaries for the purchase of food supplies. WFP assists thousands of refugees and allocates snacks for over 950,000 schoolchildren, all while facilitating the delivery of and access to general humanitarian aid in Yemen.
  3. The humanitarian medical support nonprofit Doctors Without Borders provides medical aid in countries that conflict has hit hard. In Yemen in 2018, Doctors Without Borders worked in 13 hospitals and supported more than 20 health facilities. This was despite attacks on the medical staff, which forced the organization to suspend aid in some locations. With both violence and the COVID-19 pandemic all but destroying and overwhelming the health system in Yemen, Doctors Without Borders provides invaluable support. In 2018 alone, the organization did over 500,000 outpatient consultations, admitted over 60,000 patients to hospitals and assisted over 24,000 births. The nonprofit also supports surgical care for those caught in indiscriminate air raids and skirmishes, while providing donations and technical support to hospitals throughout Yemen.
Clearly, Yemen is a microcosm of many different aspects of humanitarian strife and conflict. The war between the Houthis and the Yemeni government has decimated the country, and some international actors have contributed to the conflict more than they have helped to mitigate its effects. Fortunately, the larger international community recognizes how serious this issue is, and many, like the three organizations above, have rallied to take it on. While Yemenis are still suffering and at even greater risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the efforts these organizations showcase do provide hope for the seemingly insurmountable task of providing consistent, reliable humanitarian aid in Yemen to save those suffering from bitter violence and a lack of support since the conflict began.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in IraqThe Republic of Iraq is a country that previously possessed one of the most comprehensive healthcare systems in the Middle East. However, decades of war, economic crises and terror groups such as the Islamic State have stripped this once prosperous network. Although several recent initiatives have focused on rebuilding medical infrastructure, many new challenges lie ahead for the Iraqi people. Here are six relevant facts concerning the state of healthcare in Iraq.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Iraq

  1. Iraq’s healthcare system was once one of the most advanced in the region. Due to a mid-20th century oil boom, Iraq enjoyed a period of relative stability and increased development. By the 1970s, the Iraqi healthcare system was one of the most strongest and centralized institutions in the region. Many hospitals and primary care clinics offered free services to Iraqi citizens while medical professionals of the country trained at elite institutions abroad. However, the Iran-Iraq War, which consumed the region for the majority of the 1980s, prompted a steady decline in availability and quality of healthcare in Iraq. Due to mounting military casualties, damage to infrastructure and increasing debt, civilian access to quality medical care began to decrease.

  2. Healthcare personnel have been in increasingly high demand in Iraq. In recent decades, violence caused by invasions and terrorism has taken a great toll on the number of practicing medical professionals in the country. Due to the political chaos after the fall of Saddam Hussein, an estimated 15,000 Iraqi doctors left the country for richer and more stable countries. The Iraqi government now offers returning doctors easy access to employment and higher salaries. In spite of this, returners are few and far between. Hope for the Iraqi healthcare system primarily lies in the younger generation of student doctors. However, student doctors primarily seek training abroad rather than permanent employment.

  3. Many of the hospitals in Iraq are understaffed and in various states of disrepair. In the 1990s, a 90% budget cut led to the rapid degradation of equipment, buildings and the training of medical professionals. While no further budget cuts followed, the decades of war that followed did little to help. Many of the buildings were further looted. By the mid-2000s, around 33% of primary care clinics and 12% of hospitals were severely damaged. Around half of the primary care facilities in the country are currently not staffed by doctors. The majority of these buildings have no access to running water, worn-out machines and shortages of medicine along with other basic medical supplies. The doctors present are often overspecialized and in need of more thorough training.

  4. Rebuilding portions of the Iraqi healthcare system has proven to be a daunting prospect. Many factors played into the decrease in Iraqi healthcare quality. However, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion arguably had the greatest impact on current reconstruction efforts. The widespread looting, destruction of facilities and flight of numerous medical professionals negatively impacted healthcare in Iraq on a great scale. By comparison, the autonomous Kurdistan region, which has been relatively stable from 2003, has had far fewer issues in the development of medical facilities. In Iraqi Kurdistan, there was a 4.3 primary care center per 100,000 population increase from the 2012 national average of 7.4. By comparison, the rest of the country averaged around a 1.4 primary care center increase. Rebuilding the healthcare system should be a significant priority of the Iraqi government due to the lack of foreign investment.

  5. Iraq’s healthcare system has failed to control the COVID-19 outbreak due to a variety of factors. Iraq’s healthcare infrastructure has been in a difficult situation for the last several decades. To make matters worse, the COVID-19 outbreak has pressed it to its limit. There has been premature opening and easing of lockdown restrictions. As a result, cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed in the country over recent weeks while top Iraqi medical professionals have urgently advised the opposite course of action. With 94,693 cases as of July 21, the situation in the country grows increasingly dire by the day.

  6. The nongovernmental organization Doctors Without Borders is concentrating efforts on improving the quality of healthcare in Iraq. The group has promoted initiatives with around 1,500 staff as of 2018. Support has shifted to the establishment of field hospitals providing medical support for conflict-related injuries. Additionally, the aforementioned hospitals provide support for younger children, assisting with up to 1,000 deliveries a month. Future initiatives include the provision of tuberculosis medication and programs aiding with mental healthcare.

Conclusively, there are many challenges lying ahead for Iraqis in the domain of medical care. Reconstruction efforts are far from nonexistent. However, decades of conflict and instability have introduced new factors potentially interrupting the progress of rebuilding.

 

Samuel Levine

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Instagram Accounts Raising Poverty AwarenessSocial media is a powerful tool used to spread awareness about many different topics. Many different organizations design accounts on Instagram to advocate for global poverty through powerful images and words. Here are five Instagram accounts raising poverty awareness.

5 Instagram Accounts Raising Poverty Awareness

  1. Doctors Without Borders (@doctorswithoutborders) – This organization works to provide medical care for patients all over the world, and it currently operates in more than 70 countries worldwide. Doctors Without Borders also conducts medical research on topics such as economic and social conditions in El Salvador and HIV in South Africa. The organization’s Instagram account has 581,000 followers. The account’s posts range from information about their health care projects to powerful photographs that illustrate different crises.

    A powerful animation video posted on March 18, 2020 describes the struggles that Rohingya refugee families face as they are forced to move to camps in Bangladesh, including being prone to COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks. The animation was created “to put a human face on the humanitarian crisis that devastated this community.”

  2. Pencils of Promise (@pencilsofpromise) – Pencils of Promise is a group that raises funds to build schools and combat education problems for people around the world. To date, Pencils of Promise has built 524 schools and has 108,643 students. The organization uses its Instagram platform with 210,000 followers mainly to share photos of children around the world who are receiving education and their stories. The Pencils of Promise Instagram showcases the great impact of the organization’s work.

  3. Oxfam (@oxfamamerica) – Oxfam is an organization that works to reduce poverty by providing grants to build infrastructure for the poor, encouraging the rich to allot money towards helping the poor, and helping communities recoup after disasters. The Oxfam Instagram account has more than 78,000 followers. The account creators share easy-to-read graphics, numbers and statistics related to global poverty reduction. The Oxfam Instagram also shares inspirational quotes to instill hope regarding the fight against global poverty. One of the quotes posted on the page is “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”

  4. Global Citizen (@glblctzn) – Global Citizen is an organization that relies on citizens all over the world to organize events and advocate to reduce global poverty. The account, which has 530,000 followers, includes many posts from musical artists who hold mini-concerts to spread global poverty awareness. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Global Citizen account is sharing videos with the hashtag #Togetherathome to promote social distancing and global health safety.

  5. Charity: Water (@charitywater) – Charity: Water is an organization that works to provide clean and safe water to communities of people in developing countries. The Charity: Water Instagram account has 457,000 followers. The organization’s posts show the success of its efforts and the importance of providing clean water to people worldwide. A post from April 3, 2020, celebrates the completion of “544 water projects across India, Ethiopia and Mozambique.”

With 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram can be a powerful way to spread awareness about global poverty. These five Instagram accounts raising poverty awareness are making the world a better place one post at a time.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr