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Human Trafficking in the Democratic Republic of the CongoHuman trafficking is both a human rights and an economic concern. The following is a discussion on the progress being made in eliminating human trafficking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Human trafficking accounts for a large portion of the economic flow in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; unfortunately, little is being done to combat this occurrence by the Congolese government. This practice has thus continued to be a common human rights violation in the country and is perpetuated by a handful of linked issues such as corrupt government, poor economic climate and low infrastructure. 

Prevalence of Human Trafficking and Existing Laws

Currently, no laws exist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to prevent human trafficking.

Further, human trafficking rings are often under the control of gangs and various militant groups that the Congolese government has little power to challenge. This makes the country a breeding ground for human trade and other human rights violations.

Current Aid and Interventions

Despite the Congolese government’s inefficiency in eliminating human trafficking in the DRC, several different aid groups have begun working on behalf of the cause. Among these groups are the United Nations and USAID.

Unfortunately, Joseph Kabila, the current president of the Congolese nation, is refusing aid, insisting that it is not needed despite the millions of displaced people unable to regularly access food. Kabila has threatened outside parties that offer assistance — including Sweden and the Netherlands — and made it hard for the victims of and those vulnerable to human trafficking to receive the intervention that they need.

Earlier this year, the humanitarian assistance needed in the DRC was estimated at $1.7 billion, which is four times the amount of aid that was offered last year. Due to increased hostility from President Kabila, those raising aid for the nation will face large hurdles from the government if they continue working amidst Kabila’s threats.

Although the United Arab Emirates has been clear that they will not sponsor aid unapproved by Congolese officials, at this point no other aid source has withdrawn their pledge to support the rehabilitation of the DRC. The hope is that the aid to be received will be used to confront big-ticket issues in the nation, with human trafficking among the biggest concerns.  

Moving Forward in Eliminating Human Trafficking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

While there are many obstacles that the Democratic Republic of the Congo faces along with anyone who dares to support its victims, there is a clear opportunity for the world to be a force for good.

There is power in numbers, and the greater support citizens of the nation receive, the greater the likelihood the nation will push through to the other side of its very real and serious struggles.

A great tool for U.S. citizens is writing to representatives about issues that are important, requesting changes. Many small voices can make a powerful impact.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

USAID's support for childrenAmong the groups that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to support, children across the world are a top priority. From health-related aid to education opportunities and protection from violence, USAID’s support for children employs a variety of means to help kids survive and grow despite poverty and other adversities.

USAID Addresses Preventable Child Mortality

An important aspect of USAID’s support for children is access to medical assistance. An overwhelming 75 percent of child deaths under the age of five results from newborn deaths and treatable diseases: pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. These illnesses could be effectively countered by timely low-technology treatments, which USAID attempts to provide on the local level by bolstering public-private engagement and promoting Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM).

USAID strengthens iCCM programs that train and assist with local community members treating children. Such programs provide vital medical care on the ground in communities that are often hard to reach. USAID helps construct sustainable networks of monitoring and evaluation, clinical referral, supportive supervision and more, which in turn ensure the functioning of iCCM programs.

A USAID-supported iCCM program in Zambia led to a 68 percent early treatment rate of childhood pneumonia. USAID’s efforts to treat malaria have reached millions of children in Tanzania alone, where 70,000 people die from the disease annually. Within a decade, simple preventative action and treatment by community health workers have contributed to a 28 percent decrease of child mortality rate.

USAID’s Support for Children: A Comprehensive Action Plan

USAID’s efforts to help children around the world are not limited to medical care. USAID, together with other U.S. government departments and agencies, launched the ambitious and comprehensive five-year U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity in 2012. Backing the plan is Public Law (PL) 109-95, signed in 2005 to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which asks the U.S. government to effectively respond to vulnerable youths in low and middle-income nations.

USAID’s support for children is wide-ranged and well-coordinated under the Action Plan, focusing on the value of investing in boys and girls in order to achieve long-term economic and social progress. Among those receiving aid are children affected by HIV/AIDS, those living outside of family care, those who have been trafficked, those under sexual violence or exploitation and more.

Interventions employed by the Action Plan are evidence-based, meaning they are both effective and instructive for further action in the future. Such actions include improving the families’ socioeconomic status, rescuing youths suffering from the worst forms of child labor, promoting protective family care and protecting the education of both children and their surrounding communities.

According to the most recent annual report for Congress, the plan has reached millions of young lives since 2012. Understanding the significance of nutrition, especially in the first thousand days of life, USAID and Food for Peace sent food assistance to approximately 20 million children in 61 countries with funds from Fiscal Year 2015. Children separated from their families in 11 countries received help from USAID to return to family care.

Effective Utilization of the Private Sector

Many of USAID’s support for children take place in the private sector, via public-private engagement as well as recent “development impact bonds.” Public-private engagement is manifest in USAID’s Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (SHOPS), which increases the ready supply of diagnostic and treatment-related products. The program works with local manufacturers and importers and also informs health workers regarding the appropriate use of medical knowledge and tools.

In December of 2017, USAID launched a new development impact bond for India, the Utkrisht Bond, that mobilizes private capital to make improved healthcare accessible to 600,000 women, aiming to save up to 10,000 mothers and their newborns. With private capital enabling an initial investment, USAID and Merck for Mothers will only follow up with its $4.5 million commitment after the development goals are realized, ensuring the effectiveness of aid.

Innovative, sustainable and replicable efforts such as these are consistent with USAID’s mission to help developing countries so that they eventually grow out of the need for aid. Continued assistance from the U.S. agency will ensure that millions of children around the world are given the help they need for a better future.

– Feng Ye
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

Facts About Humanitarian AidThroughout the twentieth and twenty-first century, the global community has made a concentrated effort toward ending world poverty. Very often, Americans hear of the term “humanitarian aid” without a transparent knowledge of what that aid does or who and where it goes to. Below are nine interesting facts about humanitarian aid, including some of the origins of organized aid, countries and organizations that provide aid and the countries that benefit from humanitarian aid provisions.

Humanitarian Aid Facts

  1. One of the less well-known facts about humanitarian aid is that it is thought to have originated toward the tail end of the nineteenth century. The first global aid relief effort came about during the Great Northern Chinese Famine of 1876-79 that killed nearly 10 million of China’s rural population. British missionary Timothy Richard called attention to the famine and raised what is valued at $7-10 million today in an organized relief effort to end the famine.
  2. Modern western imagery of humanitarian aid came about during the 1983-1985 Ethiopian famine. BBC reporting from Michael Buerk showcased imagery of the “Biblical famine” that shocked the world.
  3. The publicity surrounding the Ethiopian famine led to a worldwide western effort to raise money and bring an end to the plight. Irish singer-songwriter Bob Geldof organized the Live Aid event that raised over €30 million and set the precedent for humanitarian aid fundraising events across the globe.
  4. Every year, the amount of humanitarian aid contributed by developed countries to places where aid is needed has increased. In 2017, the global community contributed $27.3 billion of foreign aid toward humanitarian relief efforts.
  5. According to Development Initiative, approximately 164 million individuals are in direct need of humanitarian aid. Those in the direst need of relief include the 65.6 million individuals displaced from their home countries and individuals that live in the world’s most dangerous countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Another interesting fact about humanitarian aid is that the largest humanitarian aid organization fighting world hunger is the World Food Programme (WFP). Each year, the WFP reaches about 90 million individuals in approximately 80 countries.
  7. Humanitarian aid is also donated in large quantities toward natural disaster relief. To illustrate, Red Cross relief efforts toward the tragic 2010 earthquake in Haiti raised approximately $488 million.
  8. In 2014, United States spent about $2.7 billion of its foreign aid budget on humanitarian aid. This money is mostly used to care for refugees who have been displaced from their home countries.
  9. One of the more serious facts about humanitarian aid is that relief workers have a tough and dangerous job. In 2017, over 150 employees were attacked while trying to conduct their work. However, many would argue that the risk is worth the lives that these individuals save.

Based on these facts about humanitarian aid, it is clear that global aid is vital to creating a global community of countries that care about one another. The global aid network creates a myriad of positive outcomes in global health, development and politics, truly saving the lives of many.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Pixabay


Over the past few years, Venezuelan citizens have suffered at the hands of oppressive government leaders, leading to an overall failing economy. Necessities such as food and medicine have become hard to obtain for lower and middle-class citizens. As a result, there has been a growing need for humanitarian assistance in Venezuela.

According to findings by the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s inflation rate reached an alarming 720 percent in 2016. This substantial rise in inflation subsequently led to an even higher rate of poverty among citizens, and an even greater need for humanitarian assistance in Venezuela.

Recent statistics from the National Survey of Living Conditions showed that the average number of Venezuelans who reported eating two or fewer meals per day increased from 11.3 percent in 2015 to 32.5 percent in 2016. Likewise, the average population reported an average increase in weight loss by more than 15 pounds due to the inability to afford adequate meals each day.

In response to this prevalent issue, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently initiated a bill known as the “Venezuelan Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Governance Act of 2017.” As its title suggests, one of the main goals of this bill is to provide humanitarian assistance in Venezuela. Within the bill, U.S. leaders cited that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro “rejected repeated requests from the Venezuelan National Assembly and civil society organizations to bring humanitarian aid into the country.” The bill also aims to protect the citizens’ human rights and the concept of democracy.

A total of $10 million has been set aside for the U.S. Committee on Appropriations to effectively carry out measures proposed in the humanitarian assistance bill. Some of these measures include providing a way to ensure that food, medicine and nutritional supplements are transported and distributed to citizens in need. Funds will further be used to improve “transparency and accountability” within Venezuelan government institutions.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

Cutting Iraq WFP Aid
The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) began providing food aid and humanitarian assistance to Iraq in 1991. In October 2016, 1.2 million Iraqis received food assistance from the WFP. However, a staggering 4.4 million across the nation are still in need.

Due to cuts in funding from donor states, the WFP has reduced food rations in Iraq by 50 percent. The move will leave 1.4 million displaced Iraqis without assistance, although the agency is negotiating on how to regain full funding from donors such as the United States, Germany and Japan.

Occupation of the region by Islamic State facilitated the destruction of massive annual barley and wheat harvests, destroying an annual one-third of the nation’s crop yields. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also attributes increasing influxes of internally displaced persons and Syrian refugees, inefficient supply chains, lack of governing infrastructure and cash shortages to be at the root of Iraq’s food supply crisis.

Agencies active in providing assistance include Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration, United Nations organizations and the WFP. These actors constitute the foundation of social protections and safety nets for Iraqi citizens through food distribution, development and financial support.

According to an Iraq WFP aid study on social protections from the Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies, Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration granted financial aid of 300,000 dinars (USD$255) to 9,373 families displaced among a dozen countries. This ministry also runs a “human stability” program.

Although cornucopias of vulnerable populations, an absence of adequate legal statutes and corruption are all hurdles to food assistance, there are steps that can be taken to improve Iraqi social protection systems. For example, the WFP recommends “building the capacity of social protection research, increasing the number of beneficiaries and demanding inclusion of the unemployed in social welfare systems.”

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Iraq
Hunger in Iraq remains a big concern. Over 13 years since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the country continues to slip closer to starvation. As U.S. military numbers have increased in the country to just over 4,600 troops, Secretary of State John Kerry outlined additional spending to provide aid to the people of Iraq. His statement, released in April, cites the severe humanitarian crisis facing the country.

To alleviate hunger in Iraq, the State Department plans to spend an additional $155 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total to $778 million provided to the people of Iraq since fiscal year 2014. While commendable, this aid is dwarfed by the estimated $2 trillion the U.S. has spent on the war effort in that country and does not go nearly far enough to help solve the problem.

Iraq’s food shortage stems from displacement in the country. The Islamic State (IS) is still in open conflict with the Iraqi government forcing many from their homes, including farmers. Fighting in areas such as Salahuddin, Nineveh, Kirkuk and Anbar have greatly reduced or halted the food generated in these important growing regions, increasing hunger in Iraq. The U.N. estimates more than 3.4 million Iraqis have been displaced in the fighting so far.

Farmers are fleeing as sectarian violence has specifically targeted agrarian production in Iraq. In territory under their control, IS has shown a willingness to confiscate farming equipment. Groups opposing IS have attacked the agricultural production of local Arabs in retaliation for their cooperation. Yazidis have burned the fields of Arab farmers in Sinjar and in the breadbasket region of northern Nineveh, Kurdish fighters have razed entire Arab communities. Farmers face additional difficulties in growing crops such as a lack of agricultural machinery, a shortage of fuel and even unexploded bombs and mines in fields.

Exacerbating the issue, a stream of refugees have flooded over the border from neighboring Syria, seeking a refuge from the fighting there. To get an idea of the size of the problem, imagine a country with the land area and population size of California. Now imagine that the inhabitants of Los Angeles have been displaced to the rest of the state while a flood of refugees pour across the border.

Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, addressed the European Parliament in June 2015 stating, “In the months ahead the humanitarian situation is going to get worse … 10 million Iraqis are likely to need some form of life-saving assistance.” This threat looms in a country with a population of 33 million.

Looking just at food, the U.S. State Department optimistically expects the humanitarian aid from USAID distributed through the World Food Program to be able to feed just over 1.5 million people for about two and a half months. Yet according to the U.N., 4.4 million Iraqis are in need of food support, not counting the estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees taking shelter in the country.

The State Department is also providing funding for education, an important measure, but one that should take secondary priority in a country where millions are not having their daily hunger needs met. Sectarian violence creates a vicious cycle contributing to food shortages which in turn lead to more unrest. A response to hunger in Iraq needs to be part of any solution in the region.

Still in its infancy after the U.S. invasion in 2003, the Iraqi Government has proven ineffective in solving the nation’s hunger problems as it fights for its very survival against IS forces. Unless the international community takes action soon, the situation in Iraq threatens to spiral further out of control.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in YemenRanked 160th out of 188 countries on the UNDP Human Development index, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab World. Ravaged by conflict for the past year and a half, poverty in Yemen has been increasing and will likely continue to do so as conflict is prolonged.

Since Houthi rebels seized the government in 2014, a Saudi-led coalition has been engaged in combat with them. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and ISIS have also increased activity opposed to both groups and further serve to increase unrest.

So far, the conflict has resulted in over 6,400 deaths, over 30,500 people injured and 2.8 million people internally displaced. In a country of 25.6 million people, 82 percent of the population is in need of emergency humanitarian assistance and 19.3 million Yemenis are without safe drinking water or sanitation. At the beginning of the conflict, 14.4 million Yemenis faced chronic food insecurity, but that figure has increased by 35 percent since the conflict began.

The conflict has also had a significant toll on economic activity. Oil and gas exports, Yemen’s main source of income, have ceased. Imports have also contracted, aside from critical food and energy imports. Inflation reached as high as 30 percent in 2015, and is expected to increase further as the fiscal performance continues to weaken.

To alleviate the crisis, more than 70 humanitarian organizations have been attempting to provide assistance to those experiencing these conditions. However, limited access and budgets have hampered its ability to reach a majority of the population.

The UNDP initiative, Yemen Our Home, is one of the actors attempting to provide relief to the Yemeni people. Yemen Our Home is attempting to garner support for and donors to restore and support community functions such as through a recent deal with Sabafon Telecommunication Company, which created a mobile clinic in the Sho’ub District of Yemen’s Capital City, Sana’a. Other projects that the initiative is attempting to fund and implement include solid waste management in cities, food production and energy.

Even before the most recent conflict, Yemen was one of poorest countries in the Middle East. 37.3 percent of the population live below the poverty line of $2 a day per person, the concentration of which live in rural areas. Statistics from 2012 indicate that almost 60 percent of children under the age of five have chronic malnutrition, 35 percent are underweight, and 13 percent have acute malnutrition, which are some of the highest rates in the world.

Poverty in Yemen persists in part due to of lack of access to basic resources such as land and water and to services such as health care and education. With a majority of the population living in rural areas, their state of isolation makes it even more difficult for people living in poverty to gain access to resources and services.

Such conditions compounded with poor infrastructure prevent humanitarian assistance from accessing those Yemenis in need. Even with a cease-fire signed in March, difficult-to-reach areas are limited in the amount of assistance they can receive.

As long as conflict continues, poverty in Yemen will only increase in magnitude. Restoring peace and order is critical for beginning reconstruction and addressing the issue of poverty.

Adam Gonzalez

Photo: flickr

Syrian_refugees
Millions have suffered from the brutal two-year conflict in Syria. The foreign aid given to humanitarian organizations as well as refugees is not enough. This is why Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and High Commissioner of Refugees Antonio Guterres are appealing to the UN for an additional $3.1 billion to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and throughout the region. The governments of Lebanon and Jordan are also seeking an additional $830 million to support nearly 500,000 Syrian refugees in each country. This money will help support efforts to provide education and health services to the refugees.

“After more than two years of brutal conflict, almost a third of Syrians need urgent humanitarian help and protection, but the needs are growing more quickly than we can meet them,” said Amos.

The UN estimates that 6.8 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, 4.25 million are internally displaced from their homes, and at least 1.6 million Syrian refugees are now living in several neighboring countries. In December 2012, $1.5 billion was requested to help 4 million people in Syria as well as 1.1 million refugees. UNHCR now estimates there could be as many as 3.65 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2013.

In the last few months, the UN and other international and local humanitarian organizations in Syria have fed up to 2.4 million per month, vaccinated more than 1 million children against measles and polio, made drinking water safe for over 9 million people and provided for nearly 920,000 people. However, this is not enough and these organizations are aiming to help even more people. With this new aid, they would be able to feed 4 million Syrians, immunize 1.7 million children, provide nearly 7 million people with health care and 10 million with safe drinking water.

“The funds we are appealing for are a matter of survival for suffering Syrians and they are essential for the neighboring countries hosting refugees,” said High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.

This aid will also help governments in the region who are feeling the strain of the conflict. Housing refugees has come at a high price for the host countries with increasing conflict and rising regional insecurity. Tensions are high in the region and this aid will help to relieve it.

– Catherine Ulrich


Source: UNICEF
Photo: The Real Truth