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eritrean_government

Without any other choice, people are fleeing the country of Eritrea. The Eritrean government has been involved in several forms of human rights violations since 1993, when they broke off from Ethiopia. It is described by Human Rights Watch as “one of the most closed countries” in the world.

Reporters without Borders rank the country last on their freedom index and Amnesty International believes the country has imprisoned more than 10,000 citizens for political reasons since 1993. Despite all these violations, the government claims they have made progress in working to reach six of eight of the U.N.’s anti-poverty goals.

As a result of these rights violations, previous estimates show that Ethiopia had been experiencing a monthly inflow of 2,000 refugees. Italy has experienced an inflow of 13,000 Eritrean refugees since the beginning of the year and Sudan has also seen a rise in those seeking asylum.

More recent estimates by U.N. investigators, however, average the number at 4,000. Investigators describe this 50 percent spike as “shocking” and a sign that the situation has gotten worse since last year’s U.N. report.

Accusations of abuse by the Eritrean government include indefinite service in the country’s army, detainment of citizens without cause, secret imprisonment, torture and forced labor. The government has also enforced guilt by association laws for families of those who flee, resulting in fines or detainment. Many die while in detainment due to appalling living conditions including extreme heat, poor hygiene and very little food.

The path to freedom is a rocky journey often involving the crossing of deserts and seas. Many drown in the sea or die from the extreme heat in the desert, yet their hope and lack of choice drives their journey as they risk life and limb to reach free land.

Poverty provides opportunities for oppression and also creates the conditions necessary for oppression to thrive. When people of the world do not have the resources necessary to retaliate or the power necessary to change policy, they are left with few options. Often, the best choice is to leave, and so they do, often in the face of great danger.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Bloomberg, Voice of America, ABC News
Photo: Cloudfront

10 hungriest countries
This year, 870 million people in the will face continual, day to day hunger. Ninety-eight percent of these hungry people live in developing countries, even though these countries are the ones producing much of the world’s food.

In October 2013, international humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide published a list of the 10 hungriest countries in the world, most of which were in Africa. The list includes Burundi, Eritrea, Comoros, Timor Leste, Sudan, Chad, the Yemen Republic, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Zambia. Patterns as to why these particular countries are hungry have strong historical correlations.

Here are five reasons why these countries are suffering from hunger.

1. Landlocked countries are resource scarce

Countries like Burundi and Chad are landlocked, and they struggle to connect with the coastal areas of Africa. Landlocked countries as a whole have poor transportation links to the coast, either by their own fault or through developmentally and infrastructurally challenged neighbors. Without access to the coast, it’s difficult to integrate with global markets. Thus, they are also cut off from global flows of knowledge, technology and innovation, and unable to benefit completely from trade. Often, the cost of transportation for importing and exporting raw materials is exorbitantly high. Burundi experiences 6 percent less economic growth than non-landlocked countries in Africa, and as many as 58 percent of Burundi‘s citizens are chronically malnourished.

2. Productive land remains unused

In some countries, land is not being effectively used. In Eritrea, almost a quarter of the country’s productive land remains unused following the 1998-2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian war. The war displaced nearly 1 million Eritreans, leaving the country with a need for skilled agricultural workers, as well as plaguing the lands with mines. There is a lot of potentially fertile land in Africa, but the majority of farmers don’t have the technology or means to use the land to its full value. Because of these discrepancies, incomes remain low.

3. War and violence destroy country infrastructure

Countries with a low level of income, slow economic growth, and a dependence on commodity exports are prone to civil war – and most of the hungriest countries have experienced war and violence for decades. Once a cycle of violence and civil war begins in a country, it’s hard to break the pattern. Timor Leste is still paying for seeking independence from Indonesia, which damaged the country’s infrastructure. Sudan is slowly recovering from two civil wars and war in the Darfur region. Chad has had tensions between its northern and southern ethnic groups for years, which has contributed to its political and economic instability.

4. Extreme climate conditions and climate change

Sometimes, causes for hunger are unavoidable – like weather. The 2011 Horn of Africa drought left 4.5 million people in Ethiopia hungry, and since 85 percent of the population earns their income from agriculture, any drought has a detrimental impact on Ethiopians. As an island off the coast of Africa, Madagascar is especially prone to natural disasters like cyclones and flooding, and experienced its worst locust plague yet in 2013. Climate change is also viewed as a current and future cause of world hunger. Changing climatic patterns across the globe require changes in crops and farming practices that will not be easy to adjust to.

5. Increasing refugee populations

Finally, the presence of refugees in a country adds to the growing pressure on already limited resources. This is the case in Chad, which has over 400,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic due to political instability and ethnic violence in those countries. Ethiopia is also home to refugees, but because of a different reason – the country continues to welcome refugees from Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia after the Horn of Africa drought.

— Rachel Reed
Sources: GCC, Global Citizen, U.N., WHES
Photo: Mirror

eritrea
Situated on the Red Sea, Eritrea is one of the youngest independent countries in the world, but it is also one of the poorest. Eritrea has had to deal with being a small, seriously poor country with many socio-economic problems since it won independence from Ethiopia after 30 years of war in 1993. Like many African nations, the Eritrean economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture with around 60% of its population relying on agricultural activities, like livestock and crop production or fishing, for food and income. In 2003, Eritrea had an annual per capita income of $150 and as a result was ranked at 155 out of 175 countries on the Human Development Index. Food insecurity and poverty are extremely widespread and are increasing; nearly half of their food has to be imported even with adequate rainfall.

More than 50% of the entire country was below the poverty line, and 44% of children under the age of five were underweight between 1990 and 2001. Around 2 million Eritrean people, a large amount of the population, are experiencing economic hardship. The low productivity of their livestock enterprises and crops extremely harm rural households, the most affected by poverty. Nearly two-thirds of all the households in Eritrea lack food security.

Some of the worst droughts in Eritrea’s history threatened the lives of over a third of the population from 2002-2004. Large quantities of livestock perished or were sold fairly cheaply to pay for food and crop production greatly fell by about 25%. Malnutrition levels are very high in Eritrea and the rural people do not have much access to social services like healthcare and purification systems for clean drinking water. Many women are the heads of their households and have to produce food and care for their children. These types of households are largely disadvantaged because they rely greatly on the help of male relatives and neighbors who may not always be available when they are needed.

The mandatory military service and armed conflicts take many men away from their families and villages and this plays a large role on the severity of poverty in the country. The border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia left tens of thousands of people killed and although a peace deal was agreed upon, there are still tensions between the disputed territories. There have been more people condemned to poverty than have been lifted out of poverty from the war in Eritrea, but the government has been working toward diplomatic solutions with Ethiopia. After Ethiopia sent in troops to Eritrea in March 2012, Eritrea remained peaceful and announced that it would not retaliate, rather it would use the proper diplomatic channels to resolve the issue and eventually bring economic growth to both countries.

Though the situation does not look promising for many rural families, Eritrea has traditional ways of protecting the rural poor communities. Wealthier families dispose of assets, like livestock and crops, and then make loans to their poorer relatives and neighbors during times of great stress. A community’s wealthier families will help households that are physically unable to cultivate their own land at different times of the agricultural cycle.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: Geneva-Academy, IRIN News, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: WFP

human rights violations in eritrea
Resting at the horn of Africa, the nation of Eritrea lies between the developing nations of Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to some of the world’s worst longstanding and ongoing cases of human rights atrocities. The violations have ranged from arbitrary detainment and torture, forced labor and popular oppression on multiple fronts.

Eritrea’s current system of governance is labeled as a transitional government with the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) as the only political party. The PFDJ party gained incumbency during the elections of June 1993; there have been no elections since then.

President Isaias Afewerki is in control of the PFDJ party and is presently the head of state and government. Moreover, PFDJ under the Afewerki regime holds authoritative control over all national, regional and local political offices.

Although there has been extensive documentation of human rights violations in Eritrea, there has been no participation in the Universal Periodic Review, a process in which each member state of the United Nations undergoes a human rights review every four and a half years. Unfortunately, Eritrea has not allowed access for the United Nations Special Rapporteur to conduct the review.

According to a 2013 annual report carried out by Amnesty International, just a few of the many human rights violations in Eritrea include compulsory military training and forced labor for children. The Afewerki regime has also arbitrarily detained and tortured thousands of civilians. There are no opposition parties, independent media or civil society organizations, as the government does not permit them.

The degree of oppression is quite appalling and has resulted with up to 3,000 refugees on a monthly basis, most of which are children. Last year, over 300,000 refugees fled from Eritrea to neighboring countries and have placed economic burdens upon them as a result.

After intensive analysis on the human rights paradigm, Sheila Keetharuth, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, spoke before the United Nations General Assembly in October 2013. She urged the international community to focus their efforts on Eritrea by stating, “The current human rights picture is desperately bleak. People feel trapped in a long hopeless situation as they see no end to it to the point that they take the irreversible decision to flee, forcing them on the road to exile.”

It has been over two decades since the “transitional” Afewerki regime under the PFDJ party has come into power. With the authoritative oppression that the people of Eritrea are subject to, it has become clear they have no power to control their own circumstances. Thus, the human rights tragedy can only be addressed with international intervention.

– Jugal Patel 

Sources: HRC, Amnesty USA
Photo: Ethiopian News Forum

isreali_migrant_laws_displace_refugees
A group of 20,000 people gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 5 to protest Israeli migrant laws. Most, if not all, of the protesters are African refugees attempting to draw attention to their desire for asylum and end the laws that could put them in detention or erase their right to work.

Al Jazeera reports that this is the largest such rally by migrants in Israel’s history. The rally transpired after a mass walk-out from a detention facility in December by hundreds of asylum seekers from Africa. These people had been detained there for a night and the following day were banned from work.

The Voice of America News states that, “Israel’s parliament passed a new law last month allowing authorities to indefinitely detain migrants who lack valid documents and ban them from jobs.” Most of the African protesters have come from Eritrea and Sudan and are seeking asylum because of poverty, violence and political chaos.

Haaretz quotes one of the protesters explaining that, “We didn’t come here to stay our whole lives; we want to return to our home countries once the situation improves.” Eli Yishai, former Interior Minister of Israel advised that the Jewish people should be sympathetic to the suffering of others as long as it would not put the state in danger. This is because he firmly believes that the African refugees want to change Israel, despite their claims against his belief.

There are currently 38,000 refugees from Eritrea and 15,000 refugees from Sudan living in Israel. In total 60,000 migrants have, according to Israeli authorities, crossed into Israeli territory from the border they share with Egypt since 2006.

Due to the sheer volume of people entering the country, Israel spent $377 million dollars on a border fence to stem the flow of immigrants in 2013, reports Al Jazeera. This fence evidently did its job because though 10,000 people crossed the border in 2012, only 36 were able to enter in 2013.

Legislation was passed on December 10 allowing authorities to detain illegal immigrants entering the country for up to a year without trial. This did not go over well with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) as they, as well as other groups have already filed petitions against the new law. Despite all of the issues, the new bill had passed by 30 votes in favor and only 15 against out of the 120-member Knesset.

– Lindsey Lerner

Sources: VOA, Times of Israel, Al Jazeera
Photo: Al Jazeera

global-poverty
Global poverty is not just about numbers. Statistics in income, wealth distribution, disease, and education never tell the whole story of individual lives in harsh conditions. Poverty affects health, life expectancy, maternal mortality, educational opportunity, environmental risk, and many other factors that contribute to individual and collective well-being. Nevertheless, numbers show a lot about the challenges of global poverty, and better data can inform better solutions to the problem of global poverty.

Reports on global poverty commonly use GDP to determine the relative wealth of countries. Such numbers allow researchers, governments, and relief organizations to determine areas of the world where poverty is most severe. Using 2012 figures from the IMF World Economic Outlook Database, the magazine Global Finance states that Sub-Saharan Africa is home to many of the poorest countries in the world. Indeed, according to those estimates, 19 of the 20 poorest countries in the world can be found in that region. Measured by per capita GDP, the five poorest countries in the world are:

Life expectancy at birth in the poorest countries in the world is 2/3 that of some of the world’s wealthiest nations:

Child mortality rates in these countries where poverty is the worst are also expectedly high. The probability of infant death per 1,000 births is as follows:

  1. Eritrea: 68
  2. Burundi: 139
  3. Zimbabwe: 67
  4. Liberia: 78
  5. Democratic Republic of Congo: 165

In comparison, the average life expectancy in the U.S. and the U.K. is 79 and 80 respectively. The infant mortality rate is 5 per 1,000 in U.K. and 8 per 1,000 in the US. Using the GDP metric, the U.S. ranks 7th on the list of wealthiest nations, with an estimated GDP of over $49,000; and the U.K. ranks 23rd, with an estimated GDP of almost $37,000. The richest nation in the world is the oil-rich microstate of Qatar, with a per capita GDP of over 100,000 dollars. Life expectancy in that country is 82 years. The probability of infant death is also 8 per 1,000 live births.

– Délice Williams

Source: Global Finance,WHO
Photo: Melange

Worst Dictators still alive

The worst dictators have a strange kind of fame. Many manage to escape widespread awareness until their regime turns irredeemably bloody or repressive. As a result of their bizarre behaviour and the extensive list of human rights violations committed under their rule, figures such as Idi Amin, Muammar Qaddafi and Kim Jong Il are now household names. Yet their notoriety grew at the end of their reigns, when their own people had revolted or their regime was nearing its final days. However, there are a number of dictators in the world in power today committing great crimes against their own people unchecked. Here are the top 5 worst dictators in the world.

1. Isias Afewerki, Eritrea

In power since 1993, Afewerki has plunged Eritrea into a living nightmare for its residents. Starting out, as many do, as an idealistic young revolutionary, Afewerki was chosen as the country’s first president after its liberation from Ethiopia. Yet after gaining the position, Afewerki essentially cut off democracy, with the country operating under a one party system and no free press. Interceptions from cables paint a desperate picture of the nation, as seen in the excerpt: ”Young Eritreans are fleeing their country in droves, the economy appears to be in a death spiral, Eritrea’s prisons are overflowing, and the country’s unhinged dictator remains cruel and defiant.”

2. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan

Though he has been in power during comparatively good economic times, Omar al-Bashir has led Sudan to becoming one of the bloodiest and most conflicted countries in the region. Bashir was at the helm of the country during Sudan’s horrific genocide, which saw upward of 300,000 deaths, largely at the hands of militant groups that were said to have government support. He has been accused by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. The unceasing violent conflicts that characterized his reign ultimately led to South Sudan’s secession from the state. The new territory, however, quickly entered into war with Sudan over oil disputes and into yet another bloody conflict.

3. Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan

Ruling since 1989, Karimov’s term was first extended, and then he was reinstated in a sham election which was discounted entirely by watchdogs, against a political opponent who publicly admitted he himself had voted for Karimov. There is little to no religious or press freedom, with universities told not to train students in the realm of public issues. Brutal torture is seen as routine in the Uzbek judicial system, with Human Rights Watch expressing repeated concern over the accepted practices in Uzbek prisons. Karimov is still to call for an investigation into the Andijan massacre, where hundreds of people were killed. He also made international headlines in 2002 after evidence emerged that he had boiled one of his prisoners to death. Repeatedly named as one of ‘Parade’ magazine’s worst dictators, international rights groups have had great difficulty in breaching Uzbekistan’s borders and little success in implementing reforms.

4. Bashar Al-Assad, Syria

In a stunning display of irony, Syria’s blood-soaked dictator started his career in medicine and is a trained ophthalmologist. Inheriting power after his father and older brother died, Assad’s cruelty showed after the start of the Arab Spring. After a violent crackdown on not only rebels, but civilians, his government has no real way of restoring order and remaining in power, yet Assad stubbornly refuses to concede to any agreements. Many international leaders have called on Assad to recognize the reality of the Syrian rebellion and step down, with Britain even stating it would consider taking in Assad if it meant his departure from the state. Support from Iran and Russia, however, have strengthened the leader long enough to continue Syria’s endless and bloody war, with Assad himself showing no signs of remorse or weakening of resolve.

5. U Thein Sein, Myanmar

Thein Sein started on the right foot. His actions in opening up Myanmar garnered praise from Western leaders such as Barack Obama and Ban-Ki Moon and he was recently given a peace award from the International Crisis Group. This image sits uncomfortably with the Thein Sein of recent days. Having initially opened dialogue with Myanmar’s Aung Sang Suu Kyi, she was again recently threatened, as was a Democracy League operating in the country. He is also accused of blatantly ignoring a deepening crisis in his own country with the violent persecution of the Royingha Muslims. His actions in response to the crisis have attracted accusations of ethnic cleansing. In response, Thein Sein has recently spoken to the international press making clear that he is not afraid to use violence to maintain order, with the unsettling statement, “I will not hesitate to use force as a last resort to protect the lives and safeguard the property of the general public.”

Sources: Parade, HRW, Foreign Policy,  BBC
Photo: Atlanta Blackstar

refugee-crises-camp-zaire
Most refugee crises continue long after public interest and media attention have dissipated. Many others never receive international attention in the first place. However, many displaced people remain in temporary camps for much longer than anticipated. Without international awareness or support, aid organizations and the UN’s Refugee Agency struggle to meet the basic needs of refugees, forced migrants, and internally displaced people (IDPs).

The United Nations identified some of the most neglected refugee crises around the world in 2012:

1. Sudanese refugees in Chad: Ongoing conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region has displaced almost 2 million Sudanese. Over 250,000 of these refugees fled to Chad, one of the world’s poorest countries. Lack of infrastructure and resources in Chad have made it extremely difficult for residents to support themselves. Many rely exclusively on humanitarian aid for survival.

2. Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan: The Eritrean refugee presence in eastern Sudan continues to grow each year. Due to political instability and military conscription, so far over 60,000 Eritreans have migrated to some of the poorest parts of Sudan. Human traffickers and smugglers target the refugees, who are unable to legally possess land or property in Sudan.

3. Sudanese refugees in South Sudan: The conflict between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement has been receiving increased international attention. But in 2012, aid organizations were urgently requesting an additional $20 million to meet the needs of the 170,000 refugees flooding into South Sudan. Lack of infrastructure makes aid delivery difficult and expensive.

4. IDPs in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Over 300,000 people were displaced from their homes in DRC in 2012 as a result of military violence. The majority remains within the Congo, while others have fled to Uganda and Rwanda. Insufficient funding and attacks on aid workers have hampered humanitarian efforts. Prior to the 2012 displacement, DRC was already home to 1.7 million internally displaced people.

5. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: Muslims from western Myanmar, mainly from the state of Rohingya, have faced systemic discrimination and widespread abuse for the last fifty years. Thousands have fled to Bangladesh, where the government has prohibited international agencies from providing aid to undocumented refugees: of an estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, only 30,000 are documented.

Many more displacement and refugee crises across the globe continue to take place under the radar of mainstream media. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has much more information and analysis on forced and unforced migration, displacement, and related human rights concerns.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN News
Photo: Wikipedia