Posts

Top Five Facts About U.K. Foreign AidAs one of the most economically developed countries in the world, the U.K. plays a tremendous role in global prosperity. In 2017, the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product per capita was $39,953.60. Here are the top five facts about U.K. foreign aid.

Top 5 Facts About UK Foreign Aid

  1. How much is being spent?
    Since the 1970s, the United Nations has been urging all developing nations to invest 0.7 percent of their gross national income in overseas aid. This is in collaboration with the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to improve international welfare. The U.K. agreed and reached this target in 2013, along with five other countries. Shortly after, the U.K. included this goal in its legislation. By 2015, the U.K. legally required 0.7 percent of its G.N.I. goes toward foreign development. By 2016, the U.K. spent £13.3 billion ($16.9 billion) on international aid. As the U.K. economy continues to grow, the amount the U.K. spends each year does, too.
  2. What are the goals?
    On top of legislation, the U.K. created an aid strategy. The four primary goals of this strategy include promoting global peace, strengthening crises response, aiding in international development and helping the world’s most impoverished people. The government aims to do so by implementing several tactics. For example, 50 percent of all the Department for International Development’s (DFID) spending goes toward aid in developing nations. Moreover, it funds a £1 billion commitment to global health.
  3. How is funding being spent?
    The DFID spends approximately 74 percent of government spending. Smaller departments within the government spend the remaining 26 percent. Most funding (63 percent) goes toward bilateral aid, sent directly to countries in need. Organizations, such as the U.N., distribute the remaining funds. The top recipients of aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria. In 2015, humanitarian projects received the most amount of support. In order to ensure success and public awareness, the DFID site collects data to track foreign aid spending.
  4. What does the government think?
    Conservative parties within the U.K. have argued to reduce foreign aid. Accordingly, these parties believe the money could be better spent domestically. After the 2016 Brexit referendum, concern surrounding foreign aid increased. However, in 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May publically supported the 0.7 percent target goal. Bill Gates has also been a large advocate in support of U.K. foreign aid. In several interviews, Gates has expressed the U.K. should be proud of its contributions toward international poverty reduction.
  5. How does U.K. foreign aid compare?
    Since 2013, the nation has become a global leader in humanitarian aid. It is known as one of the first nations to offer assistance during crises. The U.K. provided relief during Hurrican Irma and the Ebola outbreak in Syria. In 2016, the U.K. ranked fifth in international aid, behind Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark. Norway gives more than 1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid, making it a model for other countries.

Overall, the U.K. should be proud of its contributions. These top five facts about U.K. foreign aid demonstrate the nation has contributed billions of pounds to reducing global poverty. For the future of society, may the U.K. continue to grow and prosper, deepening its stance against global poverty.

Anna Melnik
Photo: Google Images

Humanitarian and Development Aid
In 2018, the U.S. spent approximately $55.9 billion on foreign aid. This foreign aid has an enormous impact on global poverty reduction because it funds various projects and assistance. Here is a simple break-down of the U.S.’s foreign aid budget, which includes humanitarian and development aid:

Development: 42 percent
Humanitarian: 14 percent
Military/Security: 33 percent
Political: 11 percent

Humanitarian and development aid make up a majority of the budget allocation in the U.S. With additional contributors ranging from private individuals to local organizations to the largest corporate companies in the world, these two types of aid also receive substantial funding from non-government sources. But while these types of aid usually receive separate funding and operate independently of each other, they may be more beneficial to eradicating global poverty if put to work together.

Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian aid is short-term funding generally focused on saving lives and responding to specific events. These events range from natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, to man-made disasters like war or disease epidemics. Countries receiving humanitarian assistance often have to spend the money within six to 18 months. The aid groups working to give the relief often work independently of the state’s government.

While there are countless organizations contributing to the global humanitarian need, the organization Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres MSF) is one such force which provides widespread relief efforts. Since its official founding in 1971, MSF has worked in over 70 countries affected by conflict, natural disasters and epidemics.

On the ground, MSF engages with a wide range of sickness and disease from cholera to malnutrition and mental health. In 2015, MSF admitted 181,600 malnourished children into feeding programs. During the June 2017 cholera outbreak in Yemen, MSF staff were treating over 11,000 patients per week. In 2017, MSF provided 306,300 individual mental health consultations and 49,800 group counseling sessions.

Development Aid

Development aid is long-term funding for ongoing projects to improve the socio-economic status of communities in need. With projects from renewable energy solutions to agricultural education, development aid aims to improve the quality of life for years to come and prevent the need for immediate relief in the future by establishing more resources within communities. As this type of aid receives funding in three to five-year cycles, aid groups can work with governments to create efficient and effective plans to carry out larger goals.

The International Development Association (IDA) is one organization committed to creating long-term solutions to poverty. Established in 1960, the IDA is one of the World Bank’s five institutions. The IDA has supported development work in 113 countries, serving 1.5 billion people and investing $369 billion in investments over 60 years.

Projects funded by the IDA range from renewable energy to women’s empowerment. In Afghanistan, from 2010 to 2018, the IDA helped provide 81,880 people with sustainable employment opportunities, of which 52 percent were women. In Kosovo, from 2014 to 2018, an IDA project benefited 7,472 people through energy efficiency and renewable energy investments, preventing 4,699 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Together is Better

Born out of different necessities, humanitarian and development aid existed in different universes for a long time, each receiving separate funding and advocacy. There is no doubt that these two divisions of aid have different objectives and perspectives on eradicating poverty. Development aid organizations tend to work primarily in stable regions while humanitarian groups tend to work in disaster-ridden zones, but the two also share important goals, namely helping people in need. The shared interest in alleviating people in need makes the collaboration between humanitarian and development aid a positive force in helping to eliminate global poverty.

One of the largest obstacles in the collaboration between humanitarian and development aid is the funding gap that occurs during the transition. If humanitarian relief agencies pull out of an affected area too quickly, the community may not be able to fully support itself yet. The shift from humanitarian to development aid is a non-linear process. Vulnerable communities may experience cycles of need where they are constantly moving from relief to development or vice versa. This is caused, in part, by the unpredictability and growing number and severity of natural disasters.

Despite the funding gap, policymakers are making advances toward more harmonious work between humanitarian and development aid. Some countries have amended humanitarian assistance requirements to allow for a longer period in which aid can be spent. The UK allows up to three years and Switzerland allows up to five years in which people must spend emergency relief money. The increased timeline allows for more economical planning about where the money should go. Although a more expensive solution, agencies can allocate a budget that allows them to continue giving humanitarian aid whilst implementing development solutions. A too sudden and dramatic shift in aid may cause an unstable community to crumble.

Oxfam International is just one organization using the strength of both humanitarian and development aid to combat global poverty. In response to the 2011 food crisis in East Africa, Oxfam distributed food, water, shelter and hygiene equipment to thousands of displaced people. Through its efforts, it was able to bring humanitarian aid to more than 2.8 million people. In addition to its life-saving aid, Oxfam recognized the need for long-term, sustainable solutions. Oxfam’s development projects included motorized water schemes to bring water to remote communities, therapeutic feeding centers to assess the level of malnutrition in children and educating people about the importance of basic hygiene.

The combining of humanitarian and development aid provide communities with the tools to survive in the midst of a crisis and help them rebuild after the crisis. By utilizing both types of aid, organizations have been able to bring disaster relief as well as establish foundational resources in order to prevent disaster in the future.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr

brickyards in nepal
In Nepal, where the world-renowned Himalayas are located, poverty continues to plague rural populations. The poverty rate in these regions is still around 35%. Due to a struggling agricultural industry, many are pushed to the cities, where they find jobs in less than desirable work conditions, such as the brickyards of Kathmandu.

The Brickyards in Nepal

During half the year, from late fall to early spring, laborers build thousands of bricks from the clay deposits found in Kathmandu. Many of the laborers are children, teenagers, women, and even the elderly. Whole families move into the brickyards in order to make a few dollars. The work is physically demanding and becomes dangerous near the kilns, where smokestacks bake the bricks and spew toxic chemicals into the air.

An estimated 750 brick factories are in operation in Nepal, but only a little over half of them are registered with the government. Due to lack of funds to enforce child labor laws, brickyards around Nepal still employ approximately 13,530 children in Kathmandu valley. Even more unfortunate, most families depend on their children to work in order to cover all of their expenses.

The Economic Angle

Several economic factors keep both the brickyards in operation and the families in bonded labor. First, construction remains one of the largest industries in Nepal, contributing NPR $55121 Million in 2018 to Nepal’s GDP. Brickyards in Nepal directly fuel this industry, and the government lacks legislative potency in order to reform brickyards’ working conditions. Second, middlemen often entice families to labor in brickyards with the false promise of good pay to get them through a dry season in the job market. In reality, families receive low pay for their work, which makes them unable to pay off their debts and forces them to stay in the brickyard, for years or possibly even generations.

Breaking the Cycle

The brickyards in Nepal present a raw picture of the cycle of poverty that still exists worldwide and exposes the structures and factors that keep families in economic bondage. While hopes of alleviating the situation seem dire, there are a variety of ways that nonprofit and activist organizations are mobilizing to alleviate the suffering in the brickyards in Nepal:

  1. Humanitarian: Ceramic Water Filter Solution is a company whose mission is to bring safe water home. One of their projects started in 2015 and 2016, has been to provide clean water to families working in brickyards in Nepal, where water is scarce. They provide many ways to volunteer, donate, and support their work on their website:
  2. Medical: Terres des Hommes collaborate with local partners to establish healthcare camps to provide aid, particularly to women and children. They have set up facilities in 20 brickyards in the districts of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. This initiative supports workers by monitoring children’s diets and checking on workplace health conditions. To help with these programs in Nepal, there are a variety of options for people to donate and to volunteer on their website.
  3. Technical: For brickyard owners, one initiative, the Global Fairness’s Better Brick Nepal (BBN) program, could, at a minimum, improve the working conditions of their brickyards. The program aims at providing technical assistance to make brickmaking safer and more efficient. In 2017, the BBN project has extended to 40 kilns in 14 districts. Ultimately, those who have started the BBN hope to enforce standards that brickyard owners must comply with in order to operate profitable businesses.
  4. Political: A research and activist group, BloodBricks seeks to end the “modern slavery-climate change nexus” of the construction industry in countries like Cambodia, Nepal, and Pakistan. Their studies trace the injustice of the “booming” construction industry in these countries and seek to fight these issues through further advocacy and discussion.

Deep-Rooted Issues

There are many different ways organizations are placing pressure on the system of brickyards in Nepal. While the issue is complex, involving deep-rooted economic and political structures, this situation is worth fighting, as one way to combat poverty and suffering in Nepal. Additionally, solving this issue has broader implications for economic bondage in brickyards in other countries and bringing this issue to light has wide impacts in terms of advocacy and awareness.

Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

 India

It is shocking how much governments spend on the military, and how much more are weapons prioritized compared to human lives, In fact, only 10 percent of world military spending could eliminate global poverty. But why is it that countries allocate their resources in expanding their military, rather than fighting poverty, home or abroad? What is the relationship between the military and global poverty? This article will provide a few different aspects of militarization, and help understand the dilemma that countries face regarding this issue.

The Numbers

According to statistics provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 2017 saw a total of $1.74 trillion spent on the military globally. This entails an approximately 3.1 percent increase compared to 2016.

Sources of military spending around the globe are concentrated on these top ten countries, order by the size of military expenditure: the U.S. ($609,758 million), China ($228,231 million), Saudi Arabia ($69,413 million), Russia ($66,335 million), followed by India, France, U.K., Japan, Germany, and South Korea. As seen, the U.S. spent more than the next seven countries on the list combined.

More than 2 percent of global GDP goes to military expenditure. The Middle East is the sole region around the globe that exceeds this number, having 5.2 percent of its GDP spent on the military. Oman, most notably, spent 12 percent of GDP on the military.

The Military and Global Poverty Efforts

Many point out that the relationship between the military and global poverty is not always a negative one: the military could often provide humanitarian assistance at times of crisis, technologies from the military could often help alleviate poverty, especially in dire, emergent situations. Furthermore, planes, other transport tools, food, construction materials and skills, medical assistance and communication could all be vital to civilians in regions suffering from conflicts or natural disaster.

The specific roles played by the military vary in different scenarios. The military could simply be a provider of resources such as food items and other needed commodities. It could also send soldiers to assist with humanitarian tasks on the ground. The military could also play the role of the police to maintain peace, though this is a much more controversial use.

There have been arguments, however, regarding the defects of such deployment of the military. It has been pointed out that aircraft is not usually the fastest and most reliable way to distribute food in adverse environments, since planes are also vulnerable to weather conditions, while other transportation means could be cheaper, more effective and more sustainable. Whether humanitarian assistance is offered from a neutral party could also influence the accessibility of poverty alleviating efforts.

The Military: A Cause of Poverty

The amount of humanitarian aid that the military could implement or help provide, sadly, is meager compared to the huge drain of resources needed to maintain a military, the destruction of existing social and economic institutions, or the elimination of potentials for development. Ultimately, conflicts and wars fought by the military are a leading cause of poverty, instead of a solution. Out of 10 poorest nations in the world, eight have recently been in or are still facing significant violent conflicts.

Compared to peaceful developing countries, countries suffering from wars and coups see have a twofold increase in the risk of malnutrition for their people and a threefold increase in the chance of infant death.

The military sometimes takes away what is essential for a nation’s future. An extreme example is that, instead of sending children to school, some nations send children to war to assist with operations, fight as soldiers, or even act as human bombs. The United Nations’ 2018 Children and Armed Conflict report listed seven countries and 56 armed groups that recruit and use children in war.

How Necessary is the Military for National Security?

Despite the unfavorable relationship between the military and global poverty, some still support large military expenditures due to concerns over national security.

However, according to researchers, an increased military presence does not decrease the potential of conflict in the case of civil war. Good policies and administrations are often much better at preventing rebellion.

War causes poverty, and in turn, poverty and inequality lead to conflict. According to surveys, some young people join militant groups because they face unemployment otherwise. Other researches find that, historically, inequality has been an important factor leading to civil war.

Poverty also significantly contributes to terrorism. It is unclear whether poverty drives individuals towards terrorist causes, but historical data shows that regions with high unemployment and poverty are more prone to the rise of radicalism.

The relationship between the military and global poverty is a complicated one, but it is obvious that funding economic development and durable physical and social infrastructure are more sustainable and reliable long-term solutions to reduce poverty and resolve security problems. It is time for nations to consider whether large militaries are really worth the cost.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About The Nuer of South SudanThe East-Central African country of South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Since then, the nation of 13 million people has struggled to maintain governance and control due to violent civil conflict. This struggle has lead to a dire humanitarian crisis and four million South Sudanese facing displacement.

The Nuer are a prominent and second most populous ethnic group in South Sudan, contributing to 16 percent, or two million people, of the total population. Given this status, the Nuer have stood at the center of the civil Sudanese conflict for decades. These 10 facts about the Nuer of South Sudan offer insight into an ethnic group afflicted most by the South Sudanese Civil War.

10 facts about the Nuer of South Sudan

  1. The Nuer live in South Sudan in rural swamps and open savannas on both sides of the Nile River. They are located approximately 500 miles south of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Due to the civil conflict, the Nuer also inhabit United Nations refugee camps in the South Sudanese capital city of Juba.Nuer also seek refuge in neighboring countries like Uganda, which hosts over a million refugees. Approximately 2.5 million South Sudanese are seeking refuge or asylum protections. The majority of these refugees are women and children.
  2. The Nuer of South Sudan are cattle raising pastoralists. Horticulture is also commonly practiced, but less desirable. With more than 80 percent of the populace living in rural areas, cattle have historically been both a cultural and religious symbol, signifying wealth as well as an economic livelihood for the Nuer. Cattle are particularly important as a part of bridewealth exchanges.
  3. Since independence, the official language of South Sudan is English, replacing Arabic, but the Nuer traditionally speak the Nuer language. The Nuer language belongs to a subgroup of Nilo-Saharan languages, as a Nilotic language indigenous to the Nile Valley.
  4. Despite a high infant mortality rate , South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. The infant mortality rate stands at 79 infants per 1,000 live births and the under-five mortality rate is 108 per 1,000 live births. Around 45 percent of the country is between zero and 14 years of age.
  5. The Nuer of South Sudan form a cluster of autonomous sections and clans. The North had long sought state control of Nuer land, but neglect of social and political developments provoked two civil wars. This eventually led to South Sudan gaining independence from the North after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and the Independence Referendum in 2011.There is  no structured political system for the Nuer, generating significant conflict. However, dominant clans often hold more significance and elders often make decisions.
  6. In 2013, Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, was dismissed by the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, over accusations of a coup attempt against the president. In addition to past support for the North by the Nuer, this sparked massive violence; President Salva Kiir ordered the deaths of thousands of Nuer in the Juba Massacre of 2013. These actions prompted the ongoing civil war in South Sudan.
  7. Since the start of the conflict, more than 2.4 million people have been displaced. In the northern part of South Sudan, the United Nations protects civilians in camp Bentiu. Nearly everyone in this camp is Nuer. In February 2017, a group of Dinka soldiers called the Upper Nile State attacked the Bentiu U.N. compound, killing an estimated 300 Nuer civilians.
  8. Thousands of Nuer have faced rape, sexual exploitation and attacks on women outside of Protection of Civilian (POC) sites. Studies show that 65 percent of women and girls in South Sudan have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. According to UNICEF, these incidents have occurred continuously over the past two and a half years, increasing with the outbreak of violence.
  9. International nonprofit and government agencies like the Nuer International Relief Agency (NIRA), The Red Cross, UNICEF and the U.N. provide humanitarian relief, health and education for war-affected and displaced Nuer. In the first three months of 2018, the International Committee of the Red Cross provided 1,675 metric tons of food, improved access to water for 267,000 people and helped 16,000 people reach family members separated by the conflict. Additionally, these agencies actively advocated and lobbied for successful peace and reconciliation as of June 2018, as well for the support of international communities in addressing the crisis.
  10. In May 2018, more than 200 children were released from armed groups in South Sudan. The release was the third this year, totaling to more than 800 child soldiers being freed in 2018. Additional releases are expected in coming months that could result in more than 1,000 children being freed.Despite this success, an estimated 19,000 children continue to serve in armed groups. UNICEF urges for the abolishment of recruitment and for the release of all child soldiers.

These 10 facts about the Nuer of South Sudan show a lot still needs to be done on the ground to address the suffering of Nuer ethnics and all South Sudanese nationals. More than 8 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. However, on June 28, 2018, warring parties signed a permanent ceasefire in Sudan’s capital city Khartoum, calling for an end to the four-and-a-half year civil war. The agreement, signed by President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and Former Vice-President Riek Machar, a Nuer, represents a significant stride towards peace in South Sudan’s history and resolution of these crises.

– Joseph Ventura

Photo: Flickr

literacy in yemenReading and writing are creative processes in building new pathways to leadership, future college and career plans and community programming. While some nations might make this a priority, Yemen’s focus is not currently to encourage literacy among the educational system.

Issues with Education in Yemen

As of 2017, 4.5 million students did not receive schooling due to absent teachers. Teachers in Yemen are on strike for not receiving payment for their services to the community. No school in session means unproductive minds and no practice with literacy.

Due to progressing conflict in Yemen, educational access and literacy efforts are not a top priority for many. There are approximately 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian aid, which is roughly 69 percent of the population.

The priority aid in Yemen consists of protection, as three million people have been displaced from their homes and approximately 44,000 people have been severely injured or killed. Other priorities focus on basic survival such as food, shelter and healthcare. Restriction on imports, economic decline and inflation among markets is making it extremely difficult for civilians to afford anything, much less education.

Encouraging Literacy in Yemen

As of 2017, UNICEF is a major partner in developing and implementing strategic plans for the ministry of education in Yemen. UNICEF is using a systemic approach to achieve educational goals. The framework consists of support from policy and legislation, ministry leadership, funding and public demand followed by implementation within the pre-primary sector and focusing on curriculum for early learning.

It is important to develop plans for early learning that empower literacy among Yemeni children and youth, as they are the future of the nation. The top three reasons to encourage literacy in Yemen are:

  1. Personal Empowerment
  2. Employability
  3. Active Citizenship

Why Literacy is Important

Reading, writing and learning involve creative and critical thinking as well as problem solving. Literacy encourages better communication, self-management, resiliency, participation, empathy, respect for others, cooperation, decision making and negotiation—all of which are necessary life skills.

There has been a 10 percent increase in literacy over the past 20 years, jumping from 60.22 percent to 70.1 percent. However, areas with high conflict, such as Yemen, have greater potential to fall behind.

With an increasing drop out rate in the education system and high conflict causing other basic needs to take priority, it is easy for literacy to get lost in Yemen. Continued work can ensure a bright future ahead for families in Yemen, but a political focus on education and literacy in Yemen must be made a top priority.

– Ashley Cooper
Photo: Flickr

Facts about the Lake Chad Basin Crisis
The Lake Chad Basin crisis is a humanitarian emergency that is among the most severe in the world. This crisis began in 2009 with the violence caused in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic jihadist group that was formed in 2002. Since then, the conflict has also spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

This humanitarian disaster has caused hunger, malnutrition and displacement in the region. Additionally, violence continues and Boko Haram even aims to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid. Because the crisis is often overlooked, it is important to address the facts about the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

10 Facts About the Lake Chad Basin Crisis

  1. Although its mission now is to overthrow the Nigerian government, the Boko Haram group was originally created to resist western education and influence. The group is also against things like voting in elections, an education system without religion and dressing with shirts and pants because this reflects western influence.
  2. As of May 2016, around 20,000 people had been killed by the extremists. Additionally, as a result of the crisis, many children have been separated from their families and are often killed or recruited to join armed groups. Females are also subject to physical abuse, forced labor, rape, forced marriage and sexual assault.
  3. There are more than 17 million people living in the affected areas across the four Lake Chad Basin countries. Many who are living in these affected areas are solely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.
  4. The conflict has resulted in around 2.4 million people being displaced. More than half of those who were displaced were children. Of these children, 50 percent were under the age of five when displaced from their homes.
  5. There is an increased risk of disease in the area since malnutrition rates have reached critical levels. Those who are suffering from the conflict often depend on international aid for medical assistance. This can be extremely problematic due to Boko Haram’s efforts to stop foreign aid from reaching the area.
  6. There are 5.2 million people in need of food assistance as a result of the conflict. Approximately 745,000 suffer from acute malnourishment. Of these people, 490,000 are children.
  7. Currently, around four million people are food insecure in the affected regions. Unfortunately, it is predicted that this will increase to almost five million in the lean season between June and August.
  8. The severity of the conflict and its consequences continues to increase. Civilians are frequently still under attack by the Boko Haram group. The number of internally displaced people continues to substantially rise in the region, even though millions of people have already been displaced.
  9. The U.N. estimates that nearly 11 million people in the region require and depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. Approximately 7.7 million people requiring aid are located in the northeastern region of Nigeria in the three most affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
  10. Currently, it is estimated that around $1.58 billion will be required in aid to the region for 2018. Unfortunately, only $477 million, or approximately 30 percent of the goal, has been funded. It is important to encourage international assistance for this particular cause in order to ensure the survival of millions.

Many NGOs and foreign governments are working together to improve the living situation of those suffering from the Lake Chad Basin crisis. However, it is still important to urge senators and representatives to pass legislation that can assist in this humanitarian emergency that has left millions in need due to hunger, violence and displacement.

– Luz Solano-Flórez

Photo: Flickr

somalia refugee crisisNow entering the third decade of its violent civil war, Somalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa that has faced a lot of turbulence over the years and remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Among some of the gravest humanitarian emergencies of the year 2018, the Somalia refugee crisis remains very crucial and significant due to its impacts on national security, regional politics, terrorism and poverty.

How Did the Situation Arise?

The premise of the current situation is embedded in Somalia’s complex and clamorous history. Often deemed a “failed” country, militias infiltrated the capital Mogadishu back in 2006. Despite the new government achieving some semblance of stability, the country still faces challenges with the new establishment and repeated threats from terror groups like Al-Shahab. There is now an ongoing conflict between the African Union-backed government of Somalia and various terrorist factions in the country.

Where Does Somalia Stand Now?

According to a report by Amnesty International, the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Somalia peaked at around 2.1 million in November of 2017. Also, there are over 490,000 refugees in Kenya and 240,000 in Ethiopia. The threat of refoulement, or the forcible return of refugees to their home countries, is a very common concern associated with the Somalia refugee crisis.

Moreover, the closing of the Dabaab refugee camp, one of the largest informal settlements in the world, will aggravate existing issues due to the massive influx of refugees and unregistered individuals passing the border. Over the past 24 years, Dabaab camp has been plagued by famine, drought, shortages and other deficiencies. Dabaab has already exceeded its carrying capacity in recent years from holding 160,000 individuals to more than half a million in the present day.

A further 100,000 refugees belong to Kakuma camp and 30,000 are currently living in urban areas in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi. Moreover, life for Somali refugees who have fled to Indonesia are constantly threatened by the fear of persecution at the hands of militants and food insecurity.

What is Being Done for the Somalia Refugee Crisis?

At this juncture, addressing the short term problems of the Somalia refugee crisis is a key priority. There is already a major funding gap for many of the humanitarian conflicts impacting African nations at present. The funding for Somalian refugees stands at only $365 million.

Since 2016, the Somali and Kenyan governments have worked collectively with the UNHCR to address the prevailing issues concerning the closure of the Dabaab refugee camp, particularly the need for an effective repatriation program. According to a report by Xinhua, the U.N. refugee agency recently helped over 78,000 Somali refugees as part of their voluntary repatriation program with the cooperation of Dabaab refugee camp.

The UNHCR is also working to address the impacts of the conflict through the provision of education, healthcare, livelihood and community-based initiatives. Food rationing is a common practice at refugee camps owing to the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore, the International Rescue Committee is providing crucial humanitarian assistance and support to over 280,000 Somali refugees.

Foreign Aid for the Cause

Though limited in many ways, foreign aid is also a big source of assistance for the Somalia refugee crisis. In 2017, the United Kingdom announced a three-year $75 million program to help African countries cope with supporting new asylum seekers.

For the past seven years, Turkey has been providing aid and support by collaborating with different government and nongovernmental organizations in the region. This includes important humanitarian assistance, food aid and development projects in agriculture and education worth $121.9 million.

Additionally, the Turkish Red Crescent has spent over $47 million in assisting Somali refugees since the year 2011. Security Ministers in the East African region are also working to catalyze the implementation of an Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to help allocate resources and promote solutions to the Somalia refugee crisis.

Mitigating the negative impacts of the Somalia refugee crisis is essential in breaking the cycle of the poverty trap that generations of individuals have suffered over the years. Solving the humanitarian crisis will hopefully provide solutions to other crucial domestic issues in future.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Global Citizen: Success Stories of the Global Poverty ProjectThe Global Poverty Project, also known as Global Citizen, is an education and advocacy organization working to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action to see an end to extreme poverty. Global Citizen’s advocacy work focuses on eight issues: girls and women, food and hunger, health, education, water and sanitation, environment, finance and innovation and citizenship.

Global Citizen has had success stories in these areas: 

  1. Girls and Women
    At the 2017 Global Citizen Festival, Accenture, Citi, Ernst & Young and Procter and Gamble committed to sourcing $100 million each through their supply chains from women-owned businesses, a majority based in developing countries. 
  2. Food and Hunger
    In 2017, the Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley, confirmed that $575 million of $990 million committed by Congress in May, helped by 49,291 actions taken by Global Citizen, was released to the WFP and others to immediately fight famine.
  3. Health
    Over the past seven years, Global Citizen has taken 1.47 million actions to increase access to global health services, including HIV/AIDS treatment. These actions have led to 48 commitments by governments and are set to affect 626 million people by 2030.
  4. Education
    In Feb. 2018, Global Citizen held the first Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference hosted jointly by a G7 leader, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the president of a developing country, Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal. The conference was held in Dakar, Senegal, to support $2.3 billion for education in developing countries. GPE’s global ambassador, Rihanna, was present and spoke as well.
  5. Water and Sanitation
    At the Global Citizen Festival, Nigeria committed to getting 5.5 million people out of open defecation by the end of 2018. 
  6. Environment
    In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the United Arab Emirates Minister of Climate Change and Environment committed $50 million on the Global Citizen Festival stage to fund renewable energy supplies and another $10 million toward humanitarian relief in Antigua and Barbuda. 
  7. Finance and Innovation
    Global Citizen partners with the private sector to further fight poverty. One of the biggest successes was at the Global Citizen Festival in 2015, where the European Commission committed to increase support for the refugee crisis by €500 million over the existing development aid budget of the European Commission.
  8. Citizenship
    In 2017, over three million Global Citizen supporters’ actions helped to drive $5.7 billion in 143 commitments by calling upon leaders as a collective power to step up for the world’s most vulnerable.

Because of its advocacy and supporters, Global Citizen will continue to reduce poverty significantly in the coming years. 

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 Introduced in SenateSenator Ben Cardin (D-MD) launched the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 in June 2017. This bill would require a report from the United States on the accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Syria by the Syrian government.

Syria’s ongoing conflict has lasted over six years as of the year 2017. The war crimes committed in the nation have caused over 4,900,000 citizens to flee to neighboring countries, with another 600,000 living under siege. Evidence has been collected by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) declaring that the Syrian government has “committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforce disappearance and other inhuman acts.”

Furthermore, a report from 2016 stated that the Syrian government forces used chemicals in an attack in Idlib in 2015 in violation of a pact. The United States and Russia made an agreement requiring Syria to dispose of all chemical weapons to prevent further harm to the Syrian people. Because of these accounts, at least 12 other countries have requested assistance in investigating the ongoing conflict in Syria in order to prevent further war crimes.

Congress has taken initiative, urging all parties in the conflict to halt attacks on civilians and provide the necessary humanitarian and medical assistance in order to end the siege on all peoples. This is a result of another document reporting that, in February alone, the Syrian government prevented 80,000 medical treatment items from going into besieged areas. Syrian citizens now rely on interference from the United States to help provide for humanitarian needs.

Although Congress cannot prevent these sieges from affecting the Syrian people as of right now, the United States has taken action by accepting approximately 12,500 refugees from Syria with the goal of resettlement. This number exceeds the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrians, a huge accomplishment in itself.

The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 would ensure a report is submitted to the appropriate congressional committees reporting on the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, and would not cease until the Secretary of State determined that the violence in Syria has ceased. It would also ensure that USAID, the Department of Defense and other programs within the government are held accountable for their participation in the war crimes that are occurring in Syria.

The United States is the world’s largest donor to the Syrian humanitarian response, donating a total of $5.9 billion. However, the passing of this bill would allow the United States to assist much more in the well-being of the Syrian people. The next step for the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017, since it has already passed the Senate, is to pass through the House of Representatives.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr