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Struggles of RefugeesFact or fiction, books are a great way to create empathy and understanding of the real-life experiences of other people. An experience that is not uncommon yet unique to each individual who has lived it, is the global refugee struggle. There are many books that tell the stories of refugees and contemporary fiction books are only one example of a genre that can raise awareness through storytelling. Raising awareness about the struggles of refugees through books and literature helps encourage more humanitarian efforts directed at helping refugees.

Kiss the Dust

Published in 1994, this historical fiction book by Elizabeth Laird takes place in 1991. Tara is a 12-year-old Kurdish girl living in Iraq during a time when conflict was high between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Kurds. After her father’s involvement with the Kurdish resistance movement, Tara and her family are forced to flee to Britain, where her whole world changes completely. Though “Kiss the Dust” is more about Tara and her family’s struggles as refugees living in London, there is also a lot of focus on the Kurdish resistance movement in 1991 and the trauma that many experienced because of it. There is also an emphasis on overall trauma from war-ridden areas, something that has lasting effects on refugees.

The Red Pencil

“The Red Pencil” was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and published in 2014. Inspired by a true story, it revolves around 12-year-old Amina living in Darfur, Sudan, in 2003. She nearly loses everything when her village is attacked, and after, she and her family are forced to find a refugee camp on foot. This book describes the struggles of her journey to the refugee camp in Kamal as well as her struggles while living in the camp. Due to the trauma, Amina stops speaking. Eventually, one of the relief workers gives her a red pencil which she uses to begin her journey of recovery. While describing Amina’s journey, the book also highlights Sudan and its prolonged conflicts and wars, showing how many Sudanese people have been forced to flee their homes throughout the years, making Amina and her family only one of many Sudanese refugees.

The Bone Sparrow

Written by Zana Fraillons and published in 2016, “The Bone Sparrow” follows a young boy named Subhi who was born in an immigration detention center in Australia. His mother and sister were part of the flood of Rohingya refugees who escaped their homeland due to the genocide of their people. Because he spent his entire life behind fences, Subhi struggles to curb his curiosity about the outside world. His only access is through his mother’s stories and his imagination. Eventually, he meets a girl on the other side of the fence who contributes to his journey of freedom, imagination and knowledge about the world. Through Subhi’s struggles, the author illustrates the refugee struggle of not having a place to truly call home. The story also shines a light on the Rohingya genocide and the number of refugees created as a result, a conflict still going on today.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

Enaiatollah Akbari was 10 years old when his mother sent him to Pakistan from Afghanistan, to protect him from the Taliban, portraying the many years the Taliban have been creating conflict in areas around Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published in 2010, the novel by Fabio Gada revolves around Akbari’s five-year journey as he travels through Iran, Turkey and Greece, eventually ending up in Italy at the age of 15. Throughout his journey, he encounters many hardships. This story highlights a refugee’s journey of loss and rebuilding.

The Good Braider

Published in 2012 by Terry Farish, this book is about a Sudanese family escaping war in their homeland and eventually ending up in Portland, Maine, a place with a lot of other Sudanese immigrants. The community of Sudanese refugees in the United States portrayed in this book shows the impact of the current and previous conflicts in South Sudan. The main character, Viola, struggles to balance the differences between her Sudanese heritage and the culture of the United States. By portraying Viola’s struggles within a Sudanese immigrant community, this book highlights the communal struggles of refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

The Unique Struggles of Refugees

Though the characters are fictional, all of these stories are based on real-life events that forced thousands of people to flee their homes. From war to genocide, each book highlights a unique yet similar set of events that the characters experience, based on their history, setting and context. These different perspectives not only allow people to empathize with victims of history but also bring more of an understanding about the lives of refugees and encourage more humanitarian efforts to address this global issue.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

United States-Based Nonprofits Labeled by the United Nations as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, more than 80% of Yemen’s population is experiencing starvation, displacement and disease while the country is on an economic decline. The crisis began in 2015 due to a civil war, and since then, many organizations have stepped up to support the people of Yemen. A few of these organizations are United States-based nonprofits that are assisting those suffering. in Yemen.

CARE

During the aftermath of World War II, Arthur Ringland, Lincoln Clark and Wallace Campbell founded this organization. Today, it has worked in more than 100 countries and has assisted around 90 million people. Each year, CARE assists 3.4 million people in Yemen, specifically those who are experiencing the worst of the crisis. The assistance includes water, food and sanitation services. CARE also puts a lot of energy into reproductive healthcare by training healthcare workers to deliver babies safely and provide proper care. It is also working to rehabilitate maternity wards. Other long-term stability programs that CARE is working on in Yemen include food security, water sanitation, hygiene, economic empowerment for women and education. Even though the Yemen crisis started in 2015, CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992, working against poverty and for social justice.

Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen

In August of 2019, four United States-based nonprofits announced they would be creating an alliance, dedicated to battling the crisis in Yemen, called the Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen. The four nonprofit organizations part of this project are Project HOPE, MedGlobal, Pure Hands and United Mission for Relief and Development (UMR). Both Project HOPE and MedGlobal are organizations that focus on providing different forms of medical and healthcare to those in need, while Pure Hands’ focus is more on alleviating poverty and providing economic and disaster relief. Lastly, UMR is an organization that provides relief through food, education and economic security programs.

Led by MedGlobal, the team launched a medical mission in November of 2019. The people of Yemen have been suffering from many diseases and the purpose of this mission was to treat the diseases and other medical issues civilians are affected with. The alliance sent a team of 23 members who traveled to different parts of Yemen providing relief services including surgeries and medical training. It also sent supplies of medication and surgery and medical equipment to different healthcare facilities within Yemen.

The alliance continues to work in Yemen, most recently working against COVID-19 and the consequences it has brought.

International Rescue Committee

Founded by the suggestion of Albert Einstein, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been helping people since 1933. Throughout the years it has assisted refugees and others experiencing disaster and conflict, in places all over the world. The IRC has been working in Yemen since 2012, providing clean water and other aid. The IRC is still assisting Yemen to this day. Its work includes providing different kinds of healthcare through medications and disease treatment as well as sanitation, water and nutrition, to almost a quarter of a million people. It also focuses on women’s reproductive health care and protection from gender-based violence. The IRC has also been working to improve education access to millions of children.

A unique aspect of the IRC’s efforts in Yemen includes advocacy. It has called for a cease-fire, improved humanitarian access and brought the issue to the attention of the international community in an attempt to encourage peace.

Helping Hand for Relief and Development

Though it has only existed since 2005, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) has provided many kinds of relief to millions of people all over the world. HHRD is not working directly with Yemen, but it has taken
part in assisting the refugees from Yemen. In 2017, thousands of Yemeni citizens fled their hometown to Djibouti, a country located near Yemen, in northeast Africa. HHRD created the Yemeni Refugee Relief Fund to assess the needs of the Yemeni refugees and gather more information on their situation.

HHRD also sent emergency relief items and began to implement long-term sanitation, water, healthcare and hygiene programs. The team also met with the Department of Refugees Affairs Director to discuss plans for refugee relief.

Foreign Aid to Yemen

While some of these United States-based nonprofits were founded due recent to global issues, others came into existence due to global issues from many decades ago. These combined humanitarian efforts provide significant hope for the people of Yemen by providing foreign aid to the most vulnerable.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

Vital Relief to VenezuelaThe country of Venezuela has an economy that is extremely reliant on its oil sales. About 99% of its exports come from the sale of oil. The natural resource also takes up a quarter of Venezuela’s GDP. Such high reliance on this resource has caused the country economic hardship in recent years. The GDP of the nation shrank by two-thirds between 2014 and 2019. The struggling economy has been devastating for the citizens of Venezuela. It has caused five million Venezuelans to leave the country and flee to neighboring ones. As of 2020, 96% of Venezuela’s population live in poverty when measured solely according to income levels. Despite the dire situation in Venezuela, countries and organizations are trying to deliver vital relief to Venezuela.

USAID’s Assistance

USAID is working on behalf of the United States to provide aid that Venezuelans so desperately need.USAID has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid to vulnerable Venezuelan communities. The monetary aid is used by NGOs and organizations to assist the Venezuelan people. The assistance these groups provide includes food, health and sanitation supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has worsened the situation for many Venezuelans. On top of the severe economic situation, Venezuelans are now dealing with the impact of a pandemic a well. USAID has adapted its efforts to help Venezuelans during COVID-19. The funding of USAID has allowed affiliated partners to provide important healthcare assistance for the delivery of vital relief to Venezuela.

The European Union Helps Venezuela

The European Union (EU) has been active in providing support for Venezuela in these trying times. Since 2018, the European Union has provided a total of €156 million to not only Venezuela but to the neighboring countries that Venezuelans have fled to. Similar to the way aid from USAID is carried out, the EU’s funding goes to partners that then use it to help the Venezuelan people. The partners of the EU include multiple U.N. agencies, international NGOs and the Red Cross. The partners of the EU provide the same type of assistance the USAID’s partners do. However, the EU notes that much of the supplies go to groups that are especially at risk. These groups include children that are under the age of 5, the elderly and the indigenous people of Venezuela. The EU also provided enough aid for 500,000 Venezuelan people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The monetary support of the EU continues to help in providing vital relief to Venezuela.

NGOs Assisting Venezuela

Other small NGOs in Venezuela are trying to provide help to Venezuelans as well. Fundación Madre Luisa Casar, for example, has secured multiple donations to provide support to the Jenaro Aguirre Elorriaga School that is located in the slum called Barrio 24 de Marzo. Its goal is to make sure that the children are provided the education and human rights they need.

Hogar Bambi Venezuela also helps children under 18 who are unable to live with their families due to abuse, mistreatment or economic difficulties. These two NGOs are just a few of many that are making vital relief in Venezuela possible.

With all the humanitarian aid coming in to provide vital relief to Venezuela, it is hopeful that the country will soon be on its way to recovery.

– Jacob. E. Lee
>Photo: Flickr

Electricity in VenezuelaOn March 7, 2019, Venezuela entered the worst power outage in the country’s history. Plunging all 23 states into darkness, the blackout lasted over five days in majority of the country. The economic losses triggered by this event exceeded $800 million and led to the deaths of an estimated 46 people. Electricity in Venezuela has since become a huge cause of concern for people.

Blackouts in Venezuela

Regrettably, this blackout was not an isolated incident, although it was the longest. Blackouts have become a routine aspect of Venezuelan life, dating back to as early as 2010. In a country where 96% of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty, these blackouts serve only to exacerbate the struggles of a vulnerable population. They strip people of access to basic necessities like water, food and fuel. Their root causes are often unclear although the key contributing factors are widely agreed-upon.

Understanding the Power System

In 2007, Venezuela’s private power companies were nationalized and transformed into one state-run monopoly known as Corpoelec. The company is underfunded, rife with corruption and unable to recover its own operating costs. The factors creating this untenable situation for Corpoelec date back even further to 2002 when national electricity rates were frozen. In Venezuela, “consumers pay only 20% of the real costs of producing power, delivering Venezuelans the lowest electricity prices in Latin America.” The drawback to these low rates is that energy is extremely overused and that Corpoelec is unable to generate sufficient revenue to fund infrastructure investments or even basic maintenance of its facilities.

Overdependence on Hydropower

The aforementioned problems are exacerbated by Venezuela’s near-complete reliance on hydropower from just one dam. The Guri Dam located in the eastern state of Bolívar accounts for 80% of the country’s electricity production and its systems are woefully neglected. The dam currently operates at a capacity considered unsustainable, “jeopardizing the machine room in the case of a flood,” according to experts. In a region where flooding is common, this is cause for concern.

Whereas other countries that rely heavily on hydroelectric power like Brazil and China have made large investments into other forms of energy, Venezuela’s ability to shift away from hydropower is crippled by underfunding, a lack of engineering power from within the country and corruption.

Corpoelec has stagnated progress as well. The company, “paid millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to political connections,” to maintain its dominance. Projects to build new dams and other forms of electricity production like thermal or wind have routinely been stalled due to a lack of funding and inadequate staffing.

The Cause of the Blackout

The March 7 blackout that heavily circulated the news was caused by a system failure at the Guri Dam. It was initially painted as a terrorist attack by president Nicolás Maduro, who tweeted, “The electrical war announced and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be defeated.”

The Venezuelan president’s claim was that the U.S. had caused the power outage through a cyberattack on the hydroelectric plant. However, engineers who worked on the dam later clarified that the plant’s electronic monitoring system is not actually connected to the internet, proving a foreign attack to be an unlikely root cause. The plant has been poorly maintained and neglected for a very long time. In actuality, failure to properly manage the electricity grid may have caused a fire has been deemed the likely cause, and unfortunately, there is no quick-response system in place at the facility to protect its systems from damage.

The Future of Electricity in Venezuela

To ensure the return of consistent electricity to the people of Venezuela and protect against future blackouts, massive overhauls would be beneficial. However, such agendas seem unrealistic given the current economic and political climate in the country. Rather, a focus on increased upkeep and basic maintenance of power plants offers a more realistic path forward. This requires access for NGOs to bring in engineers and consistent revenue toward infrastructure repair. Without this basic funding and commitment from the government, the Venezuelan people will continue to suffer through blackouts.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Proxy Wars and Their Impacts Proxy wars are one of the major categories of conflict that contribute to humanitarian crises around the world. The war can take place between multiple countries, or a country and a nonstate actor like a politically violent group. Proxy wars are often ideological and hold ties to a country’s religious systems. Multiple proxy wars can occur simultaneously around the world. In addition, multiple states can back proxies within other states, which can be seen in both Syria and Yemen.

What is the Appeal of Proxy Wars?

Using proxies has tactical advantages. According to a 2018 article by Philip Bump in the Washington Post, there were “around 5,000 American service member deaths” in the Iraq war. This leads to why countries use the proxy strategy and avoid direct warfare with an adversary. A country sponsors the military operation of a different country to do the fighting. Countries like the U.S. can avoid sending U.S. troops into war, and consequently, avoid loss of life and increased civilian risks.

What are the Down Sides to a Country Involved in a Proxy War?

One of the primary examples of why proxy wars are not beneficial is the risk of prolonged conflict. Being involved in a proxy war can include aiding a country by giving them weapons, money, or planning and assessment help. In the short term, proxy wars are seen as a way to avoid direct conflict for a country. However, proxy wars can actually increase spending and political costs as well.

Another example of why proxy wars can create more problems is the issue of accountability. After the transfer of weapons, funding or assessment help, the country or nonstate actor has those resources. Additionally, it makes the final call as to how those resources are used and allocated. This creates a problem with corruption where the original intent a country has in giving aid may not be fulfilled by the receiver of this aid. The weapons could be used to attack civilians or given to other parties in the war that they were not intended for.

What are the Human Costs in Proxy Wars?

Two of the current and most devastating proxy wars are happening in the Middle East, specifically in Yemen and Syria. The two countries are prime examples of how state sponsored militant groups and coalitions interact in warfare. It also shows how the larger regional powers fight their ideological battles for power and domination. Saudi Arabia in the Gulf and Iran in the North do this by intervening in civil wars in smaller countries that are vulnerable to collapse. Both wars also exemplify major issues like extreme poverty and famine, internal displacement and mass humanitarian need. All of these factors impact civilians and their security.

What is the Status of Yemeni Civilians and the Proxy War?

In Yemen, a number of different actors joined together to form two adversarial groups who fight primarily in the West. The Northern region of Yemen is controlled primarily by the ‘Houthis,’ a militant group backed by Iran who observe the Shiite faction of Islam. The Southern portion of Yemen is primarily controlled by the coalition forces which include Saudi Arabia and its ally, the UAE. The U.S. also supports this faction as well, this is the Sunni faction of Islam’s side.

The war in Yemen has grown into one of the largest humanitarian crises globally. Around 24 million people are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, as well as four million displaced people. Due to the location of the fighting, many people have fled out of the Western region. They fled away from ports where much of the contested land is and where the primary armed conflict takes place. The civilian casualties have been severe, with around 100,000 killed in the last five years of war.

What is the Status of Syrian Civilians and the Civil War?

The proxy war in Syria is the other major proxy conflict in the Middle East. The peak of international interest and coverage occurred in 2013 when chemical weapons were first reported to have been used against Syria. This led to a very contentious situation regarding whether or not international human rights would be upheld. The conflict and its effects are still very much present in the country. There are estimated to be 6.2 million internally displaced people in Syria, as well as 5.6 million registered refugees who have fled the country. The Syria Observatory for Human rights reports that the civilian casualties and other human rights violations have recorded “560,000 deaths over 7 years” from 2011-2018.

Ultimately, the end of many of these wars is still out of sight. Understanding these conflicts and how their detrimental effects impact civilians will hopefully change the narrative around proxy wars at the national level. These conflicts are responsible for some of the largest humanitarian crises on the planet. Hopefully, with continued reporting, the devastation proxy wars cause will be better illuminated.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Pixabay

help Nicaraguan RefugeesThe massive protests in Nicaragua, which began in April of 2018, has led to a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Nicaraguans have left the country, the majority fleeing to neighboring Costa Rica. Civil unrest, poverty and COVID-19 have contributed to several issues Nicaraguan refugees are facing. Organizations have dedicated efforts to assist with the humanitarian crisis in Central America and help Nicaraguan refugees.

The Ortega Regime

In April 2018, Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, announced pension cuts for his citizens. Following the announcement, protesters filled the streets of multiple Nicaraguan cities. The protesters demanded that pension cuts be canceled and requested an end to the years of corruption committed by the Ortega regime. The protesters were met with violence, with more than 300 dead and thousands injured or missing. Journalists covering the anti-government protests were harassed and attacked by authorities, ultimately silencing the free press. The government has been accused of using ‘weapons of war’ on its citizens and committing human rights violations. Consequently, the political unrest has created a push factor for migration out of the country.

Two-thirds of Nicaraguan refugees have fled to neighboring Costa Rica. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), 81,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees. The UNCHR found that since the pandemic, 14% of refugees eat once a day or less and 63% of Nicaraguan refugees eat only two meals a day. Moreover, many Nicaraguans have lost steady income, increasing the chances of falling deeper into poverty.

Humanitarian Aid: UNCHR

To handle the influx of refugees into Costa Rica, the country needed assistance from NGOs. In February 2020, the UNCHR granted Costa Rica $4.1 million to reduce poverty for Nicaraguan refugees. Furthermore, the UNCHR grant pays for legal assistance and civil organizations that help migrants. As much as 53% of Nicaraguan refugees had no health insurance, but with the help of the UNCHR, around 6,000 now have medical insurance through the Costa Rican Social Security System.

The IFRC Helps Nicaraguan Refugees

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also actively partaking in addressing the humanitarian crisis for Nicaraguan refugees. The IFRC’s mission is to “meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.” Moreover, the IFRC is the largest humanitarian organization in the world,  assisting displaced people around the world with resources and relief. Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, called the migration crisis during a pandemic a “catastrophe.” Furthermore, Rocca has called the attention of government officials to take care of the most vulnerable, asylum seekers because they are most severely impacted by COVID-19.

Corner of Love Helps Migrants

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border restrictive, making it harder for migrants to cross. Additionally, the pandemic has created more uncertainty for the futures of Nicaraguan refugees. Despite these struggles, NGOs are not giving up on this vulnerable population. The NGO, Corner of Love, is assisting migrants at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. Corner of Love ensures migrants have access to food and hygiene products, thus contributing to the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees.

The efforts of organizations stepping in to help Nicaraguan refugees with the humanitarian crisis give struggling people hope for a brighter tomorrow.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

Five Facts About Development Projects in South SudanSouth Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, sits along one of civilization’s oldest landmarks: the Nile River. On July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan. Its path to stability and sustainability has not been easy.

The South Sudanese government originally planned to use its oil-rich regions to stabilize and grow the country’s economy, but due to disagreements with Sudan, oil production was shut down in 2012. Since then, civil war and rogue militias have ravaged the people of South Sudan, causing a humanitarian crisis. However, this has not slowed the success of aid in the nation. Here are five facts about development projects in South Sudan.

  1. Development projects in South Sudan see long-term international aid. In 2014, the British government allocated 442 million pounds for the development of South Sudan. Instead of directly involving itself in the process, the government has allowed various international aid organizations to use the money to carry out their missions on its behalf. These organizations include the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council and the Norwegian Refugee Council. Over 60 percent of spending was allocated to providing food, medical supplies and material aid. The project is on track to end in 2020.

  2. The South Sudanese health services are overwhelmed and underfunded. According to the World Bank, the South Sudanese Ministry of Health is underfunded. As a result, the World Bank began a project in 2016 to help the South Sudanese government cope with its rising need to provide healthcare to its citizens, called the South Sudan Health Rapid Results Project. Funding has been set at $40 million. The project has succeeded in providing healthcare to South Sudanese citizens in the Upper Nile conflict area, an area that only a few development projects in South Sudan continue to work.

  3. Food security is in jeopardy. Food is in short supply in South Sudan, and the World Bank has attempted to alleviate the crisis with a food and agriculture project in 2016. The project is called Southern Sudan Emergency Food Crisis Response Project. Overall, this project has had mixed results when measured against its target goals. It has reached its target for farmers adopting new technologies to increase output and surpassed its goal of constructing new food storage facilities. However, less than half of the targeted families have been helped by their funding. Unfortunately, this project did not receive funding again in 2017, but the infrastructure it created and the new technologies introduced will help drive development in South Sudan for years to come.

  4. May 4, 2017, saw the approval of the South Sudan Emergency Food and Nutrition Project. The project was granted $50 million and is set to run until July 2019. Its goals are similar but more comprehensive than the previous food aid project. This time, more focus is being given to the re-engagement of farmers, which is exceedingly important for the stability of the country’s food supply. Using the infrastructure and technologies of the last project will help provide the basics for the beginning of this new development project in South Sudan. To compensate for the shortcomings of the last project, more funding has been given to focus on supplying food while the farmers begin to produce their new crops.

  5. South Sudan’s development has improved at the community level. USAID is providing support to South Sudan at the community level, focusing on the availability of safe and sanitary drinking water and the health and education of children. Manual water drills and pumps are being provided to villages around the country along with education on waterborne illnesses. To protect and educate children, USAID has implemented three programs. The first aims to protect the rights of children against child-labor and provide equal access to education for boys and girls. Encouraging nonviolent play is another implemented program that focuses on keeping children away from violence. Safe spaces for children are often hard to come by in war-ridden nations. With the third program, USAID seeks to provide more of these spaces for children to receive medical treatment away from conflict.

Conflict has displaced 2.2 million South Sudanese citizens. Fortunately, the world has not forgotten about its newest country. International aid will continue to help fund development projects in South Sudan, hopefully leading the nation and its people to a brighter better future.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Hurricane relief in Puerto RicoAfter weathering Hurricane Irma (the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic) and Hurricane Maria (the fifth largest hurricane ever to hit the U.S.), Puerto Rico is in desperate need of hurricane relief. The island still lacks power, as the storm knocked out 80 percent of the island’s power transmission lines, and the only electricity is coming from generators. Fuel, food and water shortages are creating a massive humanitarian crisis and are driving the urgent need for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

The storms affected an already economically crippled Puerto Rico, which is under a regime of debt-driven austerity measures. In May, Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy, and it has since been trying to restructure more than $70 billion in debt. An already stagnating economy will struggle even more under the financial burden of reconstruction after the hurricane.

The call for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico has already been answered, although much more support is needed. Some 5,000 active-duty troops and National Guardsmen members have been deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has 600 people on the ground coordinating relief efforts. FEMA reports that “more than 4.4 million meals, 6.5 million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits to support 3,000 infants for a full week, 70,000 tarps, and 15,000 rolls of roof sheeting [have been sent] to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria’s landfall.”

In addition, the current administration granted a 10-day waiver from the Jones Act, a maritime regulation that requires all shipping from one U.S. port to another be carried on American-made and American-operated shipping vessels. This regulation itself is economically draining for Puerto Rico as it drastically increases the price of shipping. A 2010 study by the University of Puerto Rico found that the Jones Act cost the island $537 million per year.

Luckily, the waiver will allow goods to enter Puerto Rico more efficiently; however, the long-term effects of the raised prices in the U.S. territory will still be felt if the Act stays in place. It is unlikely that the Jones Act will be repealed without broad support because President Trump has stated, “We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”

Hurricane relief in Puerto Rico must be a priority for the U.S. going forward, but it must also be coupled with a renewed sensitivity to the ever-present economic struggles that the small island faces. Puerto Rico is a territory created in the legacy of U.S. colonialism and their short and long-term suffering must be treated with urgency. Hopefully, in the wake of this disaster, the U.S. government will continue to work with Puerto Rico beyond the immediate recovery efforts and towards alleviating the poverty and austerity created by the debt crisis.

Jeffery Harrell

Photo: Google

Crisis in YemenThere is currently a devastating humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Many factors are intensifying the suffering being experienced by the Arab world’s poorest nation. The civil war is going on its third year and created conditions for famine, disease and terrorism to flourish. A variety of people and organizations are helping Yemenis in need, yet, it will be a long path to stability.

In September 2014, a group of Yemeni rebels, supported by Iran, overthrew Yemen’s government. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia supplied military forces to reinstate the government, with help from the U.S. The country remains in a civil war.

At least 10,000 people were killed, and two million people were displaced as a result of the war. Those evading conflict are who suffer most. The civil war led to famine, the collapse of Yemen’s healthcare system and a cholera outbreak.

Currently, almost half of Yemenis are food-insecure. Almost 2.2 million children are malnourished, 462,000 of whom have severe acute malnutrition. Furthermore, the cholera outbreak which impacted more than 300,000 people.

The civil war made these issues worse because it caused the healthcare system in Yemen to collapse. Poverty also exacerbates the crisis. Many Yemenis lost all their wealth because of the conflict. They are forced to work more and cannot take time off to stay with sick family in the hospital, nor can they necessarily afford travel expenses and treatment. Furthermore, the malnourishment experienced by a generation of children may set the stage for another impoverished generation in Yemen.

Fortunately, some are stepping in to help. U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), is pleading for a policy of aiding the country. He wrote a resolution that addressed the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia. He is also asking the U.S. to reprimand its ally Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is blamed for much of the suffering in the civil war. For instance, the country bombed cranes which were used to deliver food and medical aid. Saudi Arabia then proceeded to block the delivery of new cranes.

However, the new Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman recently allocated $66.7 million to the WHO and UNICEF to fight the cholera epidemic. While bin Salman was defense minister, he oversaw the bombing of Yemen. It is unclear if the donation is personally from bin Salman, or from the government budget.

Many other governments are also addressing the crisis in Yemen. Through USAID, President Donald Trump offered $192 million for Yemen. This will add to the $275.2 million the U.S. already gave for Yemeni assistance in 2017. The European Union is also funding humanitarian aid in Yemen. Since 2015, the European Commission gave approximately $199.5 million to help with malnutrition, water sanitation, healthcare, homelessness and more.

The WHO and UNICEF, Oxfam, Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders are among the organizations contending with the crisis in Yemen. Oxfam has been in Yemen for 30 years, building better infrastructure and working towards women’s rights and ending poverty. Save the Children has worked in Yemen since 1963 and fights for children’s rights by offering education, healthcare and food. Doctors Without Borders offers free healthcare and is working hard to alleviate the cholera epidemic.

Life has been shattered in Yemen. One of the poorest countries in the world is being made worse by civil war. Much of the world understands, that as fellow humans, it is our obligation to help end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. This ideal must spread and continue.

Mary Katherine Crowley

Crisis in Yemen
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is reaching new heights. There is a proxy war being fought between the Sunni Muslim state of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Muslim state of Iran. More than 10,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed and roughly 2.1 million have been displaced.

According to the U.N., 80 percent of the population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid. There is a water shortage that may completely deteriorate in 2017. There are now 21 million people dependent on international aid to survive.

Factors Contributing to the Crisis

The Houthi uprising began in the wake of the Tunisian civil war in 2011. This was a major security concern for the Saudi government, as it shares its southern border with Yemen. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, backed by Saudi Arabia and the U.S., was forced to resign from office in 2011. This occurred after widespread protests were held in opposition to his illegal business dealing and his amassed $60 billion. A U.N. expert panel stated in a report that, “Many have argued that the country’s spiraling debt and economic problems would be alleviated with a repatriation of these alleged stolen assets.”

Power was ceded to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in February 2012. Houthi rebels then took control of Sana’a, the capital city, through a string of terrorist attacks. Hadi fled the country.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen continued to worsen with a growing food deficit, increasing drought and terrorism concerns. Half of Yemen’s population was living below the poverty line, and almost half of the population was under the age of 18 and unemployed. Saudi Arabia led a U.S., U.K., and France-backed coalition in support of Hadi’s internationally recognized government against the Houthi rebels.

Former secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon announced that the U.N. had documentation of widespread violations of children’s rights in Syria that were committed as part of the Houthi child soldier recruitment efforts, as well as the child casualties from the Saudi airstrikes. Saudi Arabia threatened that if it were not removed from the report, they would cut off its funding to the U.N. and incredulously, the threat succeeded. This miscarriage of justice has hurt the U.N.’s reputation as an impartial mediator in the conflict.

War crimes are being committed on both sides as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen carries on. Unfortunately, these crimes will likely continue without reprimand or sanctions as Saudi allies, like the U.S., have vetoed the U.N.’s independent international investigation into these war crimes. This effectively kills any charges against the Saudi’s or Houthi rebels, endangering countless more children’s lives.

Joshua Ward

Photo: Flickr