Syria has been engaged in a civil war ever since 2011.  As different rebel groups continue to clash against the authoritative and repressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad, over 130,000 people have died.  Furthermore, over 9.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced from their homes while an additional 2.3 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries.

Relief reception areas and displacement camps are set up inside Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, though refugees are also fleeing to Lebanon and Egypt.  It is clear that the magnitude of this crisis is beyond the financial capacity of Syria’s neighbors.  So how is the rest of the international community contributing?

The United States government has been the single largest contributor of humanitarian aid, providing more than $1.3 billion to Syria and its neighbors.  The European Union has also pledged more than $800 million while the U.K., Germany and Kuwait comprise the remaining top five donors contributing $670 million, $415 million and $333 million respectively.

Aid is distributed through dozens of different implementing channels with the largest coordinator of aid being the United Nations through its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The UN has 15 different organizations on the ground in Syria including World Health Organization, World Food Program, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).  There are also 18 registered international NGO’s including Action Against Hunger, Danish Refugee Council, Oxfam and SOS international.

These organizations provide food to almost 3.4 million people in the form of rations and flour delivered to households and bakeries.  Drinking water, sanitation services and shelter materials are also being distributed to refugee camps throughout the region.  Relief programs are furthermore providing medical supplies and emergency and basic health care in attempt to counter the loss caused by damaged hospitals and medical facilities.  The health sector of the relief effort has provided about 5.9 million people with health care and medical supplies.

The UN Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan requested $1.4 billion in 2013.  As a result, nations were able to contribute approximately 74% of the requested amount.  Moreover, in December of 2013, the UN announced that aid agencies needed nearly $13 billion for humanitarian relief operations in 2014.  This includes $6.5 billion just for the Syrian conflict, $2.3 billion of which will go to aid people within Syria while the remaining $4.2 billion will be allocated for Syria’s five neighboring countries.

As the world powers continue to search for diplomatic solutions to end the civil war, the humanitarian crisis will undoubtedly extend well beyond the duration of the conflict.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: Huffington Post, USAID, UNOCHA, Reuters
Photo: BBC

For the region of Sudan and the people who live there, resilience and adversity are far more than just words. They are a waking reality. Sudan has been plagued by decades of war and social unrest resulting in genocide, widespread hunger, a diminishing economy and economic turmoil. In terms of development, Sudan ranks 171 out of 187 countries on the 2013 Humanitarian Development Index. Making matters worse is the ongoing economic loss of oil dependent revenue which has drastically decreased by 75 percent due to the separation of South Sudan. As the economy tanks, so does the food supply in the region, which is in dire need for roughly 2.9 million conflict-affected people in Darfur.

Luckily, rebuilding the country from the inside out seems to be top priority for more than 100 internationally recognized organizations who are trying to raise $1.1 billion for programs in the area which would help approximately 3.1 million people. With roughly half of the population population living below the national poverty line, it’s no wonder how dangerously in need some of the people in the region really are. As one of the top 10 recipients of foreign humanitarian assistance last year, Sudan has been largely dependent on outside assistance to help the country recover and pick itself up when it comes to agriculture and economic opportunity.

Recently, the European Union announced its humanitarian efforts for the 2014 year, which will include aid totaling $20 million, which will be implemented in increments over the next three years in the area and will support food security measurements. With the cooperation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO,) the grant will be incorporated into poverty campaign programs as well as provisions for agricultural technology and seeding. These efforts are in hopes to help recover Sudan’s economy and to encourage agricultural growth in an area where only four percent of arable land is actually cultivated.

Also lending its hand to the efforts in Sudan is the World Food Programme (WFP,) which provides essential food assistance to those most vulnerable in the region for the last 50 years. Starting in 1963, WFP has made Sudan one of the organizations largest operations and has provided food assistance to 3.9 million people. Some of the food assistance that has been contributed include; dried skimmed and whole milk, dried and canned fruits, and vegetable oil from countries such as the United States, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany. The main goal for the WFP is to promote long-term food security in hopes to build resilient communities in the heart of conflict.

There have been a number of lasting efforts that have been implemented into the region including food voucher programs, the Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy initiative, and the Farmers to Market program which gave local farmers and women a second chance at a normal life. In a country where the future is beginning to brim with potential, it is important to acknowledge the harsh realities and challenges that the Sudanese people face, all for the sake of trying to build a better life and bring stability in Sudan.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: World Food Programme – Sudan, World Food Programme – 50 Years, Sudan Vision Daily, Ahram Online

In 2012, Turkey surprised the world by giving more than $1bn in humanitarian aid, placing 4th on the list of the world’s top donors. Which countries find themselves on this list? The top three are the United States ($3.8bn), the European Union ($1.9bn) and the United Kingdom ($1.2bn). Despite Turkey’s economic crisis a few years ago, the country has managed to recover in record time, allocating a large budget for international humanitarian aid.

A sum of this aid has already been working for developing countries such as Somalia. Turkey’s aid program has promoted growth in a country displaced by war and hunger. Since the implementation of Turkey’s government assistance for Somalia there are new school buildings, several projects for rural villages underway and the possibility of new hospitals. Turkey has provided scholarships for students and have advised the Somalis every step of the way. Turkey has even provided a monthly budget of $4.5m per month of additional aid. Red Crescent, Turkey’s primary humanitarian organization has helped with this development throughout Somalia. They have built new health clinics, decontaminated water supplies and cleared trash to better the health of Samalis. Samali ambassadors have called Turkey, “a savior sent by God to Somalia.”

Now a year later, Turkey continues to offer aid. After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Phillipines, Turkey’s Red Crescent sent an Airbus cargo plane filled with tents, blankets and other vital supplies. In total they have given over 65 tons of aid items. Several of Turkey’s humanitarian aid organizations have also sent rescue teams, food packages and have begun work on aid campaigns.  To believe Turkey once received development assistance after its civil war and now contributes alongside superpowers is truly remarkable.

– Maybelline Martez

Sources: The Guardian, The Guardian Aid Effectiveness, World Policy, World Bulletin
Photo: Key Media

Turkish police blame Syrian aid workers for anti-government protests.

As reported by the Pakistan Daily times, July 6, Turkish police are blaming Syrian aid workers for the region’s unrest. During a police raid of two humanitarian aid missions in Syria, four foreigners were deported, witnesses said. Although Turkish officials denied the actions as being linked to current nationwide demonstrations, similar cases suggest otherwise.

Another Syrian humanitarian source told the Pakistan Daily Times of two separate cases in the city of Antakya. Near the border with Syria, police detained one Spanish, one German and two British aid workers and interrogated them. After their interrogation they too were deported, the source claims.

The same source tells of another case. June 26, A NGO staff member was forced off the road by unmarked police cars. After trying to run, the NGO staff member was caught and searched. After being detained and interrogated for hours they were transferred to a counter-terrorism unit. The next day, another NGO office undergoing registration was raided by 20 police officers. The police charges state that the office was suspicious of fomenting unrest, the source claims.

Incidence of environmental campaigns to save central Istanbul parks happening during the registration of many humanitarian offices have led Turkish officials to blame public unrest on humanitarian aid groups. As a result, unregistered humanitarian aid missions should stop working in Turkey, the source claims.

“With only six NGOs receiving working permits thus far, and so many others waiting in line”, it is unlikely that the foreign aid will be able to prosper any time soon, the source infers.

Requests for ‘Humanitarian Pause’

In addition to the deportation of Syrian aid workers and halting of NGO humanitarian progress in Turkey, there are suggestions of a wide spread humanitarian pause for all Syrian cross-border humanitarian workers.

In response to the increased number of deaths in Syria between March 2011, and April 2013, UN Humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos requested a ‘humanitarian pause’ for all aid workers in Syria to promote aid access and appropriate cross border operations.

Amos was quoted by as saying “The security, economic, political, social, development and humanitarian consequences of this crisis are extremely grave and its human impact immeasurable in terms of the long term trauma and emotional impact on this and future generations of Syrians”.

Halting the $3.1billion of aid to the estimated 6.8 million Syrians and bordering regions needing assistance would prevent any further negative consequences for workers, Amos suggested. reported Amos’ seriousness about temporary halt to aid and the importance of cross-border aid when “appropriate”.

Although, as reported by, the Syrian ambassador to the UN claims to be shouldering the responsibility and duty of its people, prevention of humanitarian safety and aid efforts creates yet a another road block for the thousands of Syrians needing assistance. As reported by, the Syrian government strongly opposes any international cross-border operations.

Like the Turkish government officials, Syria now has blocked Syrian humanitarian efforts.

– Danielle Doedens

Sources: RT, Daily Times
Photo: Idea Stream

Last week the U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (syrian-child_refugee_war_syria_global_poverty_development_undp_optUNHCR) said more than 1.5 million Syrian civilians had fled their country to escape the civil war that had been raging there for almost two years. Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the UNHCR, said the actual number of refugees is probably much higher due to concerns some Syrians have regarding registration. In addition, approximately 4 million people have been internally displaced since the beginning of the conflict. So what does this mean for the Syrian people who are now refugees? What can be expected in the life of a refugee?

The UNHCR defines a refugee as a person who,

owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

Like the Syrian refugees, many are often caught between a rock and a hard place. If they stay, they put themselves and their families in serious danger. If they flee, instability and uncertainty greet them at every turn. The UNHCR was created in 1950 to lead and coordinates international efforts to protect and assist people facing this difficult decision.  They protect the basic human rights of refugees and aim to ensure all refugees are given the opportunity to seek asylum in another country.

The starting point for many is often a UN refugee camp, intended to create a safe haven until they can begin their lives anew. Unfortunately, it is all too often the end of the road as well. Those who live in the camps are usually provided basic life sustaining necessities, but many will never leave. They become trapped in a state of dependence on these camps.

Currently, the largest and oldest camp (designed to house around 90,000 people) is home to almost half a million people, mostly from Somalia. It was intended to be a temporary solution for the influx of refugees from Somalia when the country descended into civil war more than 20 years ago, but the remoteness of its eastern Kenyan location and threats to security have prevented the UNHCR from further developing the camp for those who have permanently settled there. Education and sanitation is limited and the camp is extremely overcrowded.

The Syrian refugees have fled mostly to the neighboring countries of Jordan and Lebanon. Just last week Oxfam issued an urgent appeal for funds to assist those who are fleeing the conflict. Rick Bauer, the regional humanitarian coordinator for Oxfam said, “The sad reality is that the vast majority of Syrian refugees are not going home soon. He added that Oxfam is “starting to really worry about the health of Syrian refugees”.

“The aid effort must be properly funded and focused on providing refugees with affordable and decent places to stay, where they can live with dignity. That’s priority number one for refugees and host communities alike,” he said.

Priority number one indeed. But for the sake of Syrians who find themselves in a refugee camp, we hope they do not stay long.

– Erin N. Ponsonby

Source: CNN, UNHCR, Raw Story
Photo: MWB

History of the Peace Corps
Before Kennedy was even President, he had a vision for a stronger America through understanding the struggle of developing nations and peace building around the world. His speech at the University of Michigan formed the origin of the Peace Corps. From the first deployment of 51 volunteers to Accra, Ghana, in 1961, Americans have engaged in critical projects of building wells, schools, and clinics. They distribute information about AIDS/HIV prevention and environmental preservation. They strengthen capacity and resilience of crop and livestock by working with locals and their intimate knowledge of their needs and resources.

Over 52 years, the Peace Corps has engaged over 210,000 American volunteers in 139 countries and thousands of projects. Volunteers are asked to serve “under conditions of hardship” to help accomplish the mutual goal of improved livelihoods and welfare.

From the start, the Peace Corps was hugely popular with American citizens and partner countries. In the first few years of the Peace Corps, the number of volunteers expanded exponentially. Starting out with only 51 volunteers in March of 1961, by December the organization had more than 500 volunteers serving and 200 more training in the US. By 1962 there were 28 countries participating and nearly 3,000 volunteers. By 1966 the number of volunteers jumped to 15,000 volunteers and trainees. Former president Jimmy Carter’s mother volunteered in 1966 as a public health worker in India. By the early 1970s, Peace Corps volunteers were being elected to the House of Representatives in the US Congress and the first female and first African American was appointed to Peace Corps Director. 9,000 serving volunteers in 1970 is the record for most serving volunteers.

In 1981 the Peace Corps, which had been a congressional mandate, became an independent federal agency. In 1985 the Peace Corps was the subject of the John Candy, Tom Hanks, and Rita Wilson movie “Volunteers.” This was not the Peace Corps’ debut in pop-culture. References to the Peace Corps have also been made in “the ‘Pink Panther’ (1963), ‘Animal House’ (1978), ‘Airplane!’ (1980), ‘Dirty Dancing (1987), ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ (2005), ‘The Simpsons’, and ‘Family Guy.’” The number of women serving as Peace Corps volunteers jumped past the number of men serving in 1985.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, for the first time volunteers were sent to eastern and central Europe starting in 1990. 1993 saw the first volunteers go to China as English teachers. 1993 also marked a divergence of Peace Corps Directors as appointed from outside the organization. Since Carol Bellamy, director from 1993-1995, and a returned volunteer, all the directors have been former volunteers. Started in 1995, the Peace Corps now also sends volunteers on short-term missions to respond to humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters; this included responses to Katrina in New Orleans. When the apartheid ended in South Africa, the Peace Corps sent the first group of 33 volunteers in 1997. The 2003 ad campaign was aimed at refreshing the image of the Peace Corps in the American mind. The new slogan read: “Life is calling. How far will you go?”

The next year the Peace Corps received the largest appropriation from Congress in the history of the Peace Corps: $400 million. The budget expansion coincided with a “40-year high in numbers of volunteers”—8,655 volunteers in 77 countries.

Who are volunteers? They are mothers, children, fathers, astronauts, scientists, members of Congress, and ambassadors. They are descedants of an organization born in the campaign of President Kennedy and shaped by the demanding needs of people suffering the indignity of poverty and underdevelopment and hard work of thousands of American citizens.

“The Peace Corps represents some, if not all, of the best virtues in this society. It stands for everything that America has ever stood for. It stands for everything we believe in and hope to achieve in the world”- Sargent Shriver.

Katherine Zobre


Mama Hope: Mamas without Borders
Stephanie Moore, better known as Mama Hope, was the birth mother of Nyla Rodgers and the spiritual mother of many others. In 2006 when Mama Hope died of cancer, Nyla went to Africa to find the man her mother had sponsored. When Nyla traveled to Kenya she found that her mother had helped “hundreds of others.” Inspired by her mother’s work and impact Nyla founded the Mama Hope advocacy and activism group.

Made up of a group of 11 dedicated activists, Mama Hope works in 4 countries: Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Since their founding, they have completed 32 projects impacting over 100,000 people. Their projects “have addressed critical issues in agriculture and food security, water, health, education, shelter, women’s empowerment and the environment.”

Their approach to development involves three phases: “Listen to local communities”; “Connect funds through awareness”; and, “Enable sustainable projects.” They call this the Connected Development model. This model relies on identifying needs and solutions by first speaking with communities. Unlike a top-down approach, the community already has a self-identified stake in making the solution a reality.

Once the project is identified, Mama Hope pairs US donors with African community organizations and much-needed projects through the foundation’s framework. Donors include individuals, foundations, and corporations. Projects are promoted via social media to help build momentum. In the final stage, “Enable sustainable projects” rely entirely on local labor and materials. Each project is designed to create jobs and have a minimal environmental impact. Reliance on local knowledge, material and labor allows projects to be accomplished in an efficient and sustainable way. Because community members have ownership of the projects, the community members become stakeholders in the success of each project.

True to the roots of Mama Hope, the “Stop the Pity Movement” stresses that the world should be seen through “hope and connection.” Hope and connection are believed to be the foundations of making sustainable change—by seeing the potential and resilience of the human spirit. African women in one of the project villages were asked to make a video about themselves. Did they make a video about their burdens such as poverty or sadness? No. They made a video about something they love: Netball. They experience poverty and sadness in ways most Americans will never know, but they are more than their poverty and sadness. They are resilient humans that live and love and laugh as well as carry their heavy burdens. Mama Hope not only gives them hope, but it also gives everyone who is working towards a better world hope by allowing us to see that good work and measurable success is being achieved.

Katherine Zobre

Source: Mama Hope

Tetsuko Kuroyunagi Trauma Center Saves LivesUNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyunagi helped build a trauma facility in South Sudan seventeen years ago. She recently returned to the center, which has saved the lives of thousands of children in South Sudan. This was the first time she had visited the center.

Tetsuko is a Japanese celebrity. She is an actress, television host, author, and humanitarian. Tetsuko was in Sudan in 1993 during the Sudanese civil war. While she was there, the country was suffering a severe food crisis and many of the nation’s children were suffering as a result of the armed conflict. She was touched by the children’s simple wishes for peace, schools and good teachers.

When Tetsuko left the country and returned to Japan, she called upon the Japanese people to help her raise money to build a trauma care center. She was able to raise and donate $300,000. The facility was founded in 1996 and was named after Tetsuko’s childhood name Tutto-chan.

During Tetsuko’s recent visit, she was able to meet with a now 28-year-old man who was the first child to seek shelter at the center. The man conveyed his story of how the center was an invaluable lifeline for him. He had been a soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army at age 11 and found the center after he escaped and was brought to Juba, Sudan’s capital.

The man, along with the center’s first director helped other escaped children receive shelter and care, changing the lives of many. The center’s first child was able to eventually escape to Uganda where he pursued his education and made it all the way to university.

The center director, Jim Long, claims the center has helped to save the lives of more than 2,500 children. The children have come from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

The center provides a variety of services to children seeking shelter. They provide interim accommodation and care, family tracing and reunification, psychological support, and welfare support. It is an invaluable regional asset helping children recover from serious trauma.

Tetsuko was incredibly pleased and humbled by the success of the center. She was enthusiastic to return to Japan and tell the Japanese people that the money they sent has been used to save the lives of so many children. She stated that visiting the center and seeing the progress they have made was one of her happiest moments in Sudan.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: UNICEF

10 Facts: The Lives of Aid Workers
Many people do not understand what it truly means to be a humanitarian aid worker. There are millions of people worldwide that dedicate their lives to improving the living conditions of people living in poverty in developing countries, refugee camps, or war zones. In countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the risk of violence and sickness is great. However, aid workers in other countries face just as many health risks and sleepless nights.

While the health risks are great, the benefits for these workers and the people they help are just as great. Making friends from all over the world, lifting people out of poverty, and sleeping on the beach can be some of the perks of the job. Here are ten facts about the lives of aid workers according to the Aid Worker Fact Sheet procured by Humanitarian Outcomes, Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALAP) and a few workers themselves.

  1. In 2011, 308 aid workers were killed, kidnapped or wounded – the highest number yet recorded. Afghanistan was the country with the highest number of attacks on aid works, 50, compared to 18 in Somalia, 17 in South Sudan, 13 in Pakistan and 12 in Sudan.
  2. Statistics suggest that attacks on aid workers happen in weak, unstable states and experiencing active armed conflict.
  3. Governments can pose challenges to the aid community through overbearing or ill-advised use of their security forces. In its worst form, aid workers can be caught or directly targeted in government forces’ hostilities.
  4. The conditions of aid works vary greatly from country to country. Sometimes, reliable access to amenities of the western world like electricity, hot and cold running water, reliable heat and cooling, and the freedom of movement to explore at your leisure.
  5. At times, the mental capacity of the job presents a challenge. Constant movement and the witness of horrendous living conditions frequently cause humanitarian workers to “burn out” after a few years in the field.

However, it is not all bad. Here are five facts that surpass the risks of working in developing or war-torn countries.

  1. Aid workers live a life of service that aligns with their values and are surrounded by colleagues that share the same passion and commitments. Though aid workers are on the constant move, they make connections and lasting friendships with people across the globe.
  2. Challenge and responsibility come earlier in the career of a relief worker than in many other careers.
  3. Relief workers have the opportunities to make a lasting, true impact on the lives of many of the people they encounter.
  4. Relief work allows humanitarians to escape the beaten, tourist track and truly experience different cultures and countries.
  5. According to ALNAP, there are 274,238 humanitarian field workers across the world.

– Kira Maixner

Source: Humanitarian Outcomes, Humanitarian Jobs
Photo: European Commission


The Minister of Development and International Co-operation (UAE), Lubna Al Qasimi, met with the Chief Minister of Island of Jersey, Senator Ian Gorst yesterday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss international developmental and humanitarian actions and to boost cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. According to Shaikha Lubna, the UAE is trying to “align their points of view, in order to enhance the development and humanitarian efforts globally in the underprivileged countries.”

The contributions made by the UAE has allowed it to advance its rank globally in its achievement of developmental and humanitarian aid; thus, the UAE’s acquirement of the 16th rank pushes donors to raise their efforts in supporting developing countries. Senator Ian Gorst examined the “potential cooperation opportunities with UAE” and highlighted the projects and the mechanisms as to how these international development programs will be handled. The Senator went on to commend the UAE’s expertise in international development and the humanitarian standpoint. He applauded the successful efforts of the UAE in delivering aid and assistance to “affected people of man-made crises, such as in wars, food deficiencies, drought, poverty, in accordance with the directions and estimations of the international institutions.”

– Leen Abdallah
Source: Khaleej Times
Photo: UAE Interact