On January 30, the United Nations expressed grave concern for the people of Katanga, the wealthiest province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The country, in a constant state of deterioration and disarray since its independence from the Belgians in 1960, has experienced relative restoration in the past decade thanks to a series of UN missions.

The DRC is the 11th largest country in the world, making it incredibly difficult for any peacekeeping organization, no matter how skilled and vast, to give equal attention to each of the country’s problems. And, the UN admits it fell victim to this difficulty. Increased fighting between the government and sectarian groups in the eastern regions has left the southern province of Katanga in neglect.

Approximately the size of Spain, Katanga is judged to possess about a third of the world supply of cobalt and almost a tenth of its copper. April 2013 marked the entrance of 440 rebel fighters who attacked Katanga, allegedly with no resistance from security forces. In just the past three months, their fierce rebellion for a Katanga independent from the DRC razed nearly 600 homes and displaced over 400,000 individuals.

This number of displaced persons, in a country by no means stranger to such catastrophe, is still considered an extraordinary increase over the past two years.

Doctors Without Borders, currently active in the region, worry that the humanitarian crisis is augmented by an inability for vulnerable people to access proper medical care and assistance. Falling patient numbers, combined with the known increase in need, suggests that many are going untreated. With enhanced awareness of the issues and a global desire to bring peace to the region, perhaps improvements will come soon.

Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: All Africa, The Guardian, All Africa
Photo: jbrussellimages


The food crisis in Syria has taken approximately 100,000 lives and starved nearly 40% of the population. Recently, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has set a precedent to help all those affected in the region by setting a goal of raising $30 million a week to meet the food needs of Syrians and refugees. This humanitarian crisis has brought together concerned parties from across the globe in an effort to aid needy families and children. Below are a list of the most recent donations and programs set up to provide aid to struggling Syrians and refugees.

China– On November 6 the People’s Republic of China has contributed $2 million towards Syrian relief efforts. That aid has been used to purchase 2000 tons of bulgur wheat, vegetable oil and rice which will be delivered to 1.2 million internally displaced Syrians. Those rations will fulfill food needs for approximately one month. Matthew Hollington who acts as the county director in Syria has said “one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that we have sufficient funds available to purchase the food in advance, so WFP is extremely grateful for this generous contribution from the government of China.”

Japan– On October 28 The United Nations World Food Programme received a donation package equaling $4.9 million from the Government of Japan which will be put towards emergency food assistance programs and will reach 800,00 conflict affected Syrians. Almost $2.4 million has been allocated to purchasing and distributing food rations every    month. The aid will also reach almost 300,000 refugees seeking shelter in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Muhannad Hadi who stands as WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for Syria and the neighboring countries has applauded the Japanese government for their continued support since 2011. To date Japan has contributed over $15.2 million to the WFP through food vouchers.

Local Artists– On October 26 an estimated $1.3 million worth of art from over 130 artists will be auctioned off for the Syrian Refugee Children. This will be in effort to combat the  growing number of refugees, half which are children. President of the Lebanese Beiteddine festival Noura Jumblatt has stated that this is the first time that so many artists from the Middle East have mobilized for a cause. Within the first two days a total of  $250,000 has been bid in the first two days of the two week auction.

You– Every day through the World Food Programme website donations are being taken   to aid the 2 million Syrians who have fled their home country. For a one time donation of $18 those funds will be used to provide lifesaving food portions for families such as rice, beans and oil. A donation of $72 would provide food for a family for an entire month.Payments can be made through WFP’s website and through PayPal. This ongoing aid is vital for providing relief as WFP must raise $30 million a month to ensure that refugees and those affected by this crisis are provided for.

Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: World Food Programme, Reuters, World Food Programme, BBC

From 1983 to 2005, the people of Sudan endured the Second Sudanese Civil War. Conflict between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) resulted in the deaths of two million people and the displacement of four million more. In 2005, the Sudanese government and SPLM signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which eventually led to the establishment of an independent state of South Sudan.

Despite the Peace Agreement and separation of South Sudan, many members of the SPLM and other revolutionary groups—collectively known as the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) – remained in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Since 2011, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have engaged in a comprehensive campaign to repress and eliminate these revolutionary forces in the country’s southern states.

To achieve this objective, the SAF has initiated indiscriminate aerial bombings and ground assaults in territories held by the SRF. Eyewitness accounts describe government soldiers forcing civilians from their homes and destroying entire villages. The attacks have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in a region that is already afflicted by severe food and water shortages. Many civilians have had no choice but to flee the territory.

The United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 Sudanese have fled to already-overcrowded refugee camps in Ethiopia and South Sudan. These refugees face a long and daunting journey by foot through the Nuba Mountains. Those that arrive at a camps are often afflicted with a range of health problems including malnutrition, water born illnesses, skin diseases, respiratory infections and potentially fatal diseases such as Hepatitis E.

Compounding the situation is the fact that many camps are hindered in their ability to care for refugees by a lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. In the rainy season, roads are impassable and all food and medical supplies must be flown into the camps. Ewan Watson, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says that many refugees “found shelter in camps whose stretched resources were insufficient to cover peoples’ basic needs.”

While many civilians have fled, those that remain in the region are unable to farm or harvest because of the aerial and ground attacks. This has intensified food shortages, malnutrition, and disease. The Sudanese government has also cut off all foreign aid to people living in territories controlled by the Revolutionary Forces. The Enough Project—an advocacy group focused on genocide and crimes against humanity—reports that more than 80% of households in the state are surviving on one meal a day.

Despite growing international pressure, there are no signs that the SAF will abate their assault on the southern states. As food, shelter and land become more scarce, the number of refugees fleeing Sudan will increase. In a region that has known little peace, the humanitarian crisis in Sudan appears to shift continuously from bad to worse.

– Daniel Bonasso

Sources: Enough Project, The Lancet, Overseas Development Institute


The Bosnian War was an ethnic conflict that ravaged the former Yugoslavia from 1992-1995.  The Bosnian War was marked by the systematic mass rape and murder of Bosnian Muslims by Serbian nationalists. In order to understand the genocide in Bosnia, however, one must first examine the recent history of the torn Balkan region.

At the conclusion of World War II, Bosnia became a federal republic of Yugoslavia when Yugoslavia was united under the authoritarian dictator Josip Broz Tito. Under Tito, strict policies were instituted that dampened tensions between the three main ethnic groups in the newly formed republic: The Bosnian Muslims (or Bosniaks), the Catholic Croats, and the Orthodox Serbs. When Tito died in the early 1980s, Yugoslavia disintegrated, fanning the fire of ethnic hostility.

The Serbian President Slobodan Milošević was the driving force behind the genocide. Milošević ascended to power in 1989 on a platform of emotional rhetoric that appealed to his supporters. Milošević propagated a message of extreme Serbian nationalism, calling for the expansion of the Serbian state into Bosnian territory. In a 1988 Belgrade speech, Milosevic identified Bosniaks as the “internal enemy,” a gesture eerily similar to Hitler’s pre-WWII demonization of the Jews in Germany.

Wary of Serbia’s aggressive ambitions, Bosnia declared independence in 1992. A Serb army was quickly formed in Bosnia by Radovan Karadžić with the support of Milošević in Belgrade. The purpose of this army was to cleanse Bosnia of “non-Serbs” who were predominantly Bosniaks. After Bosnia’s declaration of independence, Serbian forces sieged Sarajevo and began the extermination of thousands of Bosniaks that continued for three years.

NATO intervened in 1995 and conducted military strikes that decimated the Serbs, forcing them into a disadvantageous position.  In November of the same year, the presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia signed the Dayton Accords, formally bringing the war to a close. The number of Bosniaks killed is estimated at about 100,00. The population was dramatically reduced through ethnic cleansing.

How could seemingly normal human beings commit such heinous acts of violence in the name of the state? Surely nationalism was the driving force behind the genocide in the Bosnian War, but loyalty to one’s flag should never result in atrocities of this magnitude. History, however, has proven that nationalism has the ability to motivate average people to do terrible things. In the case of the Bosnian War, the Serbian commitment to ethnic cleansing and state expansion resulted in the genocide of innocent men, women, and children.

– Josh Forgét

Sources: Wikipedia,, Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, The Three Yugoslavias
Photo: Military Photos

Early Warning Systems are Not Just for Earthquakes
When political crises happen or human rights are being destroyed, the use of smart phones and other technology to spread the word is critical. What about when natural disasters strike? When a family has minutes to evacuate before a tsunami wipes out their village, do they take a picture or tweet about it? No. But the World Health Organization, in cooperation with national and local governments, and by demand of citizens in crisis and an outcry for better preventative measures, is working on building better early warning systems for post-disaster epidemics. The technology? A boat, a bike, your boots. Also needed: a pencil, paper, and your determination.

Recently in the Solomon Islands the immense destructive forces of the 6 February 2013 8.0 magnitude earthquake and pursuant 3m tsunami left thousands of people without homes and brought down the health care system.

The Solomon Islands consist of 1,000 islands off the South Pacific and are home to 550,000 people. The destructive power of the February earthquake left thousands vulnerable to diseases due to the broken health care system. 5500 residents required temporary living shelters. These shelters are often plagued by poor sanitation due to lack of resources and cramped living quarters. Poor sanitation leads to a plethora of preventable diseases—most of which associated with diarrhea.

Taking a queue from the early warning systems set up to warn of impending natural disaster, the World Health Organization worked with the Ministry of Health of the Solomon Islands to set up an early warning system to identify outbreaks, unusual outbreak patterns, and the number of people affected. This is a critical step towards disaster recovery and decreasing the vulnerability of those affected.

Developing the surveillance system presented logistical challenges of connecting vulnerable people to health clinics. Five clinics were set up around Santa Cruz, the main island that was affected. The head nurses, “doubled as boat captains,” connected patients to clinics. Traveling from surveillance sites to the clinics is risky. Poor weather, no lights on the boats, dangerous landing sites and navigational skill are all impediments to the surveillance system. For Solomon Islanders, these risks are necessarily overcome because full coverage is absolutely necessary for the system to work.

The WHO works with the clinics to make sure all the information necessary to identifying and preventing large-scale outbreaks is included in an accessible way. The successful system, now fully functional, has collected data, identified risky areas, and has quickly responded to problems.

The WHO initiative in the Solomon Islands is not unique and neither is their geography. There are 52 developing island nations in the world. These nations carry a disproportionate risk imposed by earthquakes and tsunamis and break down of health systems. Early warning health systems are a part of a larger global strategy to minimize post-natural disaster vulnerability. The WHO works with governments to create a Global Risk and Response system. The main activities include working with governments to set up early warning systems and develop laboratory capacities to handle large amounts of biological material—all of which requires bio-security to keep potential diseases from escaping. Training for and building response strategy plans is also a main function of the WHO’s Global Alert and Response (GAR) system. Seasonally, the GAR supports governments in climate related disease preparedness and creates standardized approaches to climate related diseases such as influenza and malaria.

Katherine Zobre

Sources: Wikipedia, WHO , WHO

UN Central Emergency Response FundIn December of 2012, the United Nations had called for financial support for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which has financed humanitarian programs that saved millions of lives. Donors pledged $384 million for 2013. On January 21, the United Nations announced that $100 million was to be allocated to 12 poorly-funded crises around the world.

Since 2006, the UN CERF has helped speed up relief efforts by collecting donations to ensure that programs providing life-saving assistance receive adequate funding. Since then, the Fund has managed to secure a total of $900 million to address crises. In 2012, CERF allocated a total of $465 million to programs delivering humanitarian aid in 49 countries including Syria, South Sudan, Haiti and Pakistan, the highest amount allocated in a year.

On December 11, 2012, in a statement at the high-level CERF conference, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, praised the Fund’s work in aiding those affected by crises. “CERF’s support has been critical to saving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world,” Amos said. “It has bolstered the transformative agenda, which aims to strengthen humanitarian response, and our efforts to have a robust and well-coordinated UN-led humanitarian response in support of national efforts.”

Amos reviewed CERF’s work in supporting Syrians in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, refugees in South Sudan, and disaster response in Haiti and Cuba post-Hurricane Sandy. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had also praised the fund’s range of services: “From flood zones to war zones, CERF stops crises from turning into catastrophes.”  Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the Fund’s ability to mobilize funds “in stubbornly under-funded situations” through its “quick, targeted support” mechanism.

CERF supports the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen. CERF selection criteria include humanitarian needs and analysis of funding levels. These situations include the Sahrawi refugee operation in Algeria, life-saving programs in Eritrea and agencies working in Afghanistan.

The objective is to target ‘forgotten’ or ‘neglected’ emergencies. A second round of allocating funding will follow in July 2013. Amos reiterated that the CERF continues to help millions of people “after the media spotlight fades.” She hopes more governments will cooperate with CERF in providing funds to those trapped in “hidden emergencies.”

“CERF is more than a message from the international community – it is a real help for the most vulnerable members of our human family,” concluded Ki-Moon.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: UN NewsUN NewsOCHA